On This Day: Willie Nelson Honored at Kennedy Center for Lifetime Contribution to Arts in 1998

by Madison Miller

Willie Nelson was officially marked as a legendary figure in the arts on this day in 1998.

The country artist was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor. According to an article from MTV, the artist was honored with an event that took place at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House.

The event included President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as prestigious guests.

Nelson wasn’t the only one to receive honors. Others are composer Andre Previn, Bill Cosby, actress Shirley Temple Black, and the composer/lyricist team of John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Willie Nelson Achievements

Willie Nelson is an incredibly iconic voice in country music. He has a position as one of the last outlaw country artists, a subgenre from the ’60s that was a reaction to restrictions of the “Nashville sound.”

Some of his most popular albums include “Shotgun Willie,” “Red Headed Stranger,” and “Stardust.” He is also an actor and has made appearances in movies like “The Electric Horseman.”

Other key awards included the lifetime award, the Gershwin Prize, which is from the Library of Congress. He is also in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone chose him as one of the top 100 singers and guitarists.

Spreading Awareness

Besides being an outstanding artist, with a distinctive voice and hit albums, Nelson took his fame as an opportunity to spread awareness.

One of the biggest movements he was a part of is the legalization of marijuana. Since the ’60s he has been advocating for the legalization of the drug. He even has his own brand of cannabis called “Willie’s Reserve.”

In an interview with Slate, Nelson talked about how Election Day is tipping states in favor of marijuana legalization.

“Well, I think it’s great. It is a good medicine and I’m glad that it’s being accepted around the country, and I’ll be glad when every state in the union legalizes it, because I think it will be healthy for everybody,” Nelson said.

He protested the Persian Gulf and Iraq Wars. They inspired “Jimmy’s Road” and “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?” It is in this song that he asks “How much oil is one human life worth?”

Nelson also created the first LGBTQ-themed song ever released by a major country artist. He recorded “Cowboys Are Frequently Fond of Each Other” where he sings “Inside every man there’s feminine.”