Video: Bobbie Nelson turns 90, with birthday greetings from family and friends
"You're the matriarch of the family, and you lead with love and music." That's Amy Nelson, daughter of Austin icon Willie Nelson, speaking about Willie's sister, piano player Bobbie Nelson, in a new video celebrating Bobbie's 90th birthday that was posted Monday to Willie's YouTube channel and Bobbie's Facebook page.
Bobbie's birthday was Jan. 1, and in many years past, Austinites have celebrated with her in person at ACL Live, where she played New Year's Eve concerts with Willie for most of the past decade. No such luck in a pandemic, of course, but Amy and other Nelson family members did their best by contributing to this video. It clocks in at 33:33, featuring messages and songs from fellow musicians and longtime friends near and far.
Following Willie and several of his family members right up front is Ringo Starr with his familiar "peace and love" greeting. Mixed in over the next half-hour are local luminaries including Joe Ely, Ray Benson, Rosie Flores, Jesse Dayton and KUTX's Jody Denberg, along with big names beyond Austin including Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Earle, Jim Lauderdale and the Jayhawks.
There's also footage of Bobbie onstage with Willie, performing his classic "Night Life" and her trademark piano-spotlight number "Down Yonder."
Maybe the best contribution comes at the 8:50 mark, when Kevin Russell of Austin band Shinyribs delivers a short poem he wrote, set to simple piano accompaniment:
For as long as we can remember
The sound of your hands on the piano runs through our lives
Like the Brazos to the Gulf
Your fingers on the keys
Like the blue light of the Luckenbach moon on the live oak trees
Nickels falling into the jukebox
Two-stepping, polka-dotted, new love
On a dancehall floor weathered by generations
Spinning to the left, stepping to the right
Tethered to your arpeggios, staccatos and decrescendos
And in the reflection of your brother singing
There is nothing like that sound
Keeping it all together, from coming unwound.
Bobbie's mates in Willie's band chime in along the way as well. The most fitting final word goes to harmonica ace Mickey Raphael, who assures that “next year, on your 91st, we’ll have a big bash."