I have certainly heard age affect Willie's voice over the past eight or ten years, although to no detriment -- despite his range being diminished a little. His tone is still marvellous, as is that distinctive vibrato. Undiminished is his ability to convey a lyric or offer a unique interpretation of a song. He's a wonderful communicator. And at eighty-years-of-age, has become part of a rare club of singers who have remained creative, prolific, interesting and in good enough voice to keep performing and recording as octogenarians. Tony Bennett obviously springs to mind in this respect, as does B.B. King, although he hasn't recorded much since turning 80 in 2005. But I can easily foresee the like of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, Elton John, Paul McCartney and even the Rolling Stones performing into the latter part of their seventies. Even Petula Clark, at 80, has a new album on release and still sounds good.
A decade ago, when Willie turned 70, he was already older than Sinatra was when he recorded the splendid L.A. Is My Lady album in 1984. And although Sinatra would record occasionally during the rest of the 1980s, and did unsuccessfully try to get new projects off the ground, it would be a further nine years until Frank released an album of entirely new recordings with Duets. Which isn't entirely out of the ordinary by today's standards, although, Willie, in the same period of time, has released almost a dozen studio albums. All of which are good, certainly worthy of anyone's attention, whilst several, such as Songbird, It Will Always Be, American Classic and You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, rank favourably next to his best material. And he still acts on occasion -- although, for laughs, check out his recent "audition" to play Gandalf in the next Hobbit movie.
It's very special and worth reflecting on a great career, such as Willie's, when a landmark age is reached. Especially 80 -- an age that Cash didn't make it to, or Crosby, who was seen as being ancient for such a long time. Turning to Elvis for a moment, and his passing at what certainly wasn't old by any standards, or even middle-aged, it's incredible to think that Willie was born almost two full years before him -- April 1933. Willie Nelson, to my mind, has had one of the greatest long careers in all of popular music. And I wouldn't doubt for a second that he's still got some outstanding music in him -- not that he's showing any signs of slowing down.