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Willie Nelson Receives Honorary Doctorate

Annie Lennox, Willie Nelson, Carole King, and Berklee president Roger H. Brown
photo by Phil Farnsworth

His songs have no doubt healed many hearts over the course of his legendary career, but now it’s official: Willie Nelson is a doctor.

On Saturday, the Berklee College of Music in Boston awarded Willie an honorary doctor of music degree. He briefly addressed the graduates, telling them, “The history of music has been good, but the future is even better thanks to you folks.”

Willie got to know some of the students Friday night (May 10) when he took part in the annual commencement concert, jamming with them on his tune “Night Life” and Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” for which he was joined by good friend Kris Kristofferson. Kris also surprised Willie on Saturday when he donned a cap and gown to help bestow the doctorate honors onstage.

In a chat on his bus before the show, Willie said he was humbled to receive the honors and tickled that the students were so well-versed in his music. “I’m naturally shocked and surprised that this whole thing is happening to begin with, and to have a bunch of young musicians that are very knowledgeable of your music and are playing it, that’s very good.”

When asked what advice he might have for the aspiring musicians, Willie said he only ever gave one piece of advice: “Don’t take my advice, do what you want to do. If it’s something that you believe in, don’t take no for an answer.”

It’s a philosophy that has served him well.

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