The country crooner, whose career spans six decades, is being recognized for his genre-crossing music.
Nelson will receive the prize in November and be honored with a series of events in Washington, D.C. The lifetime achievement award is given to a living musician who enhances cultural understanding and inspires new generations through music.
Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Carole King, Billy Joel as well as the songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David also received the prize.
“Willie Nelson is a musical explorer, redrawing the boundaries of country music throughout his career,” said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress. “A master communicator, the sincerity and universally appealing message of his lyrics place him in a category of his own while still remaining grounded in his country-music roots. His achievements as a songwriter and performer are legendary. Like America itself, he has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs. He has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression.”
Nelson has released 10 albums in the last five years for a total of 200-plus recordings. His latest track, “Django and Jimmie” — a collaboration with Merle Haggard — hit No. 1 on the Billboard country album chart in June.