Toby Keith once wrote and recorded a song called “I’ll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again.” Whether he kept true to that word in subsequent years or not is unknown, but it will definitely hold true going into the figure, because no one will smoke weed with Willie Nelson again.
Put down “Willie’s smoke-free bus” on the things you’d never thought you’d see come to pass that somehow have. The country legend told a San Antonio television station he’s given up on burning sensations.
“I don’t smoke anymore,” Nelson told KSAT. “I have abused my lungs quite a bit in the past, so breathing is a little more difficult these days, and I have to be careful. I’ve mistreated myself since I was this big.
“I started out smoking cedar bark, and it went from that to cigarettes to whatever,” continued the 86-year-old singer. “And that almost killed me. … I take better care of myself today than I did then.”
Nelson described performing as a form of exercise. “Singing out there for an hour is a good workout,” he told the Texas station. “Your lungs are the biggest muscle you’ve got. So when you’re out there working, you are working out.”
In early August, Nelson canceled a run of tour dates, tweeting, “I’m sorry to cancel my tour, but I have a breathing problem that I need to have my doctor check out. I’ll be back.” He was, very shortly, resuming performances in September.
But the announcement led some in the public to believe he might be near death. Asked about public attention to his supposedly declining health, Nelson told the station, “I don’t give a f—. Excuse me. I’m here, I’m glad to be here, I’m lucky to be here.” As for any possible cessation or slowdown of touring, he said, “Ah, I love this bus — this is my home.”
In an April interview in 2019 with Rolling Stone, Nelson credit marijuana with his still being around, saying he might not be if it hadn’t taken him away from his more dangerous cigarette and drinking habits.
“I wouldn’t be alive. It saved my life, really,” he told the magazine. “I wouldn’t have lived 85 years if I’d have kept drinking and smoking like I was when I was 30, 40 years old. I think that weed kept me from wanting to kill people. And probably kept a lot of people from wanting to kill me, too — out there drunk, running around.”
From the sound of things, Nelson hadn’t completely given up smoking at the time of the April interview, but his wife, Annie, described him as mostly relying on vaping and edibles nowadays. Describing his routine, she said he would “take a couple of hits off the vape and then, an hour or two later, he might want a piece of chocolate. That keeps it going. So not a ton [of pot] . . . but he is Willie Nelson.”
Just last week, for Record Store Day Black Friday, Nelson released a new song as a limited-edition 45rpm single: “Sometimes Even I Can Get Too High.”
That doesn’t mean Nelson is recommending anyone else lay off anything. His Willie’s Reserve line still includes the smokable variety of the stuff as well as vaping and edible products.