Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday afternoon tunes: Like a band of gypsies

Awkward memory: Twenty-three years ago today the IRS seized all (or almost all) of Willie Nelson's assets. The Red Headed Stranger had followed some spectacularly bad investment advice and found himself on the wrong end of a $16 million bill for unpaid taxes, interests, and penalties. Even negotiating it down to $8 million in cash – to which the IRS agreed – didn't help much, since Nelson (through whose generous fingers cash notoriously passed like water) had little hope of coming up with that amount, either.

And then this happened:
In anticipation of negotiations with the IRS breaking down, Willie Nelson had his daughter remove his beloved guitar, Trigger, from his Texas home and ship it to him in Hawaii, where he was golfing when the feds raided his home on November 9, 1990. "As long as I got my guitar," Willie Nelson said, "I'll be fine."

Here's Nelson and Trigger together:

And then this happened:
Ultimately, Nelson did get to keep his guitar and even got his Texas ranch back, but not before the government auctioned his home to the highest bidder in January 1991. That bidder, however, was a Nelson fan who purchased the ranch at the behest of a group of farmers who threw their support behind Nelson in thanks for his work in organizing the Farm Aid charitable concerts.

In June 1991, Nelson released a compilation album entitled The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?, the first and perhaps last major-label record album ever released under a strict revenue-sharing agreement with the Internal Revenue Service. While the revenues generated by The IRS Tapes did not come close to settling the debt on its own, Nelson did manage to retire his debt to the federal government by 1993.

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