“I woke up still not dead again today/ the internet said I had passed away/ well if I died I wasn't dead to stay/ I woke up still not dead again today.” - Still Not Dead Again Today - Willie Nelson.

When Shotgun Willie Nelson was victim of numerous on-line hoaxes that claimed he had died at the ripe young age of 82 he came out swinging.

The Red-Headed Stranger lampooned his faux fate and premature death stories by recording Still Not Dead Again Today , replete with a video, to dispel the Neanderthal naysayers.

Willie says he wants to die on the stage but not right now during his string of albums on the Sony Legacy classics label dating back to 2012.

His parody was perfect timing but not included on his Gershwin tribute disc - Summertime - released here on the eve of his 83 rd birthday on April 29.

Willie revamps eleven George and Ira Gershwin classics aided by producers Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings who adds piano, B3 organ and Wurlitzer, elder sister Bobbie, 84, on B-3 organ and piano, and of course, his trusty guitar Trigger.

Nelson's band - bassists Kevin Smith and David Pitch, pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin, guitarist Dean Parks and his long-time harmonica ace Mickey Raphael - also enrich his time travel back to the thirties.

The singer lowers the demographic by including two younger duet partners Cyndi Lauper, 62, and Sheryl Crow, 54, on Let's Call The Whole Thing Off and Embraceable You .

It's no surprise the album, described as cowboy cocktail jazz, reached #1 on current jazz and traditional jazz charts after its February 26 release.

Two of his previous albums earned spots on jazz charts: 2008's Two Men With the Blues and 2011's Here We Go Again: Celebrating The Genius of Ray Charles .

Both discs were collaborations with renowned jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

Summertime came to fruition after Nelson was awarded the Library of Congress 2015 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

When he was presented with the honor, he noted, “I have been a fan of Ira and George Gershwin's music since I was a little guy.”

Nelson was the first country artist ever to receive the distinguished Gershwin Prize - an honor not lost on him.

“To get a Gershwin award for anything is great, but to get one for songwriting is especially great because Ira and George Gershwin were just fantastic writers. They wrote some of the greatest songs ever,” Nelson said while receiving the prize.

“The Gershwin songs have been here for many years. When I was just a small guy, I remember hearing all these great Gershwin songs, and they'll be around forever because great music like that just does not go away.”

George Gershwin was the pianist and composer, putting together the songs that were the soundtrack of many American plays and musicals.

His older brother Ira was the lyricist who put words to these melodies that help make up the foundation of American song. George Gershwin died in 1937, but just like many of the founders of country music, his influence and songs linger and loom large still today.

Willie picked up the baton from the Gershwin Brothers by long transcending genre and era.


“Summertime, and the livin' is easy/ fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high/ oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'/ so hush little baby, don't you cry/ one of these mornings you're gonna rise up singing/ and you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky/ but 'til that morning, there ain't nothin' can harm you/ with Daddy and Mammy standin' by.” - Summertime - George Gershwin.

When Willie made his first Australian tour in 1981 he promoting of one of the first triple platinum albums with his 1978 jazz and pop standards disc, Stardust.

It included Blue Skies written by Ira Gershwin, and Someone To Watch Over Me credited to both Ira and George.

Willie reprises Someone to Watch Over Me, and ten other Gershwin tunes here on Summertime - a smooth journey back to the classical era of pop, mostly defined by Willie's distinctive vocals and nylon string guitar playing.

The melancholic mood swings begin with evocative entrée But Not For Me and Somebody Loves Me.

Let's Call The Whole Thing Off - the duet with Cyndi Lauper - punctuates Someone To Watch Over Me and It Ain't Necessarily So - featured in 1935 musical Porgy And Bess.

That was 30 years before most famous Vietnam War conscript Normie Rowe had a top 5 hit with the latter in 1965.

Cyndi, who recently recorded a country disc in Nashville, and Willie add a dab of vegetarian humour with their contrasting pronunciations of vegetables and fruit.

Equally infectious is Willie's rollicking delivery of I Got Rhythm and Love Is Here To Stay , replete with geographical metaphors for rock steady love.

They All Laughed is a perfect fit for Willie with the theme of true love overcoming skeptics in the same fashion as its roll call of trail blazers such as Thomas Edison, Christopher Columbus and the Wright Brothers.

They Can't Take That Away From Me - sung by Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers on the foggy deck of the ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan in the 1937 film Shall We Dance - is also manna from heaven for Willie .

Willie reaches deep into this mix of joy and sadness as he sings that even if the lovers part, though physically separated, the memories cannot be forced from them.

The fitting finale is breezy title track - an Aria also composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for Porgy and Bess - and since recorded by 33,000 artists.

Although Willie is best known as a country artist his eclectic taste also embraces reggae, gospel, blues and western swing with nods to Bob Marley, Django Reinhardt and Bob Wills.

Willie was part of the first platinum-selling album in country music with the leathery and rugged Wanted: The Outlaws from 1976, but he was also part of one of the first triple platinum albums with his 1978 record of jazz and pop standards, Stardust.

He has since released duo and trio albums with artists diverse as late fellow Texans Ray Price, Johnny Bush, Waylon Jennings and Curtis Potter, Asleep At The Wheel , and three with recently deceased Californian legend Merle Haggard.

Willie also released a duets disc To All The Girls with 18 female artists on October 15, 2013.

It debuted at #2 on country charts and features fellow octogenarian Loretta Lynn, now 84, who duets with Willie on Lay Me Down - the finale of her new album Full Circle.

Workaholic Willie, with more than 100 albums in his catalogue, also has a fitting funeral anthem when he finally goes to God - his classic gospel tune Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die.

But he still has more than a few years to run on his recording contract and love affair with his peers and fans.

Summertime track listing.

1. But Not for Me

2. Somebody Loves Me

3. Someone to Watch Over Me

4. Let's Call the Whole Thing Off (with Cyndi Lauper)

5. It Ain't Necessarily So

6. I Got Rhythm

7. Love Is Here to Stay

8. They All Laughed

9. Embraceable You (with Sheryl Crow)

10. They Can't Take That Away from Me

11. Summertime

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