Some very confused Willie Nelson fans are surprised he's supporting Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

A group of Willie Nelson fans, who should really consider turning in their stan cards, are upset that he’ll be headlining a rally for Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is facing off against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in November.

Willie Nelson, pictured in July, has apparently shocked some of his fans by supporting a liberal candidate. (Photo: Rick Kern/WireImage)

Houston, Texas, local TV station KTRK first pointed out that “dozens” of people criticized Nelson in a Facebook post he shared on Wednesday announcing the Sept. 29 rally in Austin. The 49-time Grammy nominee — and eight-time winner — was told to “stay out of politics” and the like. “If that’s true, I’m done after 45 years with the Red Headed Stranger. Willie, that smoke has finally got you,” wrote someone named Ralph Brown. Kathy Lamb Manley commented that she “really thought that Willie had more sense than this.” Those are the printable ones.

In the press release for the concert — touted as “the first public concert Nelson has held for a political candidate” — Nelson was quoted saying, My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed. Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine.”

What’s puzzling about the Facebook comments is that Nelson has been a politically outspoken public figure for decades. The marijuana advocate — who’s shown love for Barack Obama, both Hillary and Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and John Kerry — has appeared at multiple Democratic National Conventions, dating back to 1980, when he addressed delegates in Madison Square Garden rocking a red bandana and his trademark braids. He performed at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Since then, he has supported state campaigns, including Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich’s run for Congress. He performed at a fundraiser for Kucinich in 2012.

The “On the Road Again” singer, 85, has smoked pot on the roof of the White House — when Democrat Jimmy Carter was president — and contemplated running for office himself, but “then I sobered up,” he told Rolling Stone last year. “I think you can do more with music than you can with arguments and politics. I think a song will reach more people than any other thing.”

Willie Nelson speaking at the 1980 Democratic National Convention in NYC. (Photo: AP)

And he’s written songs about President Trump, such as “Delete and Fast-Forward,” which he released last year. Nelson, who helped start Farm Aid and has raised more than $53 million for family farmers, has said that he “knew [Trump] back when he owned some casinos, and I worked for him. He always paid me. I had no problems at all. However, he added that as president, Trump “stepped into a different world. … It’s easy when you can just go bankrupt anytime you want to and say, ‘I’ll check you later.’ But that’s hard to do when you’re president of the United States.”

Willie Nelson and Beto O’Rourke perform in concert at Willie Nelson’s 45th Fourth of July Picnic at the Austin360 Amphitheater on July 4, 2018. (Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images for ABA)

In June, Nelson invited Trump to come to Texas with him to visit a border detention center, tweeting at him through an account called Happy Blue Year 2018, which belongs to Nelson’s wife, Annie. He told Rolling Stone that the policy enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border was “outrageous” and that “Christians everywhere should be up in arms. What happened to ‘Bring us your tired and weak and we will make them strong?’ This is still the promised land.”

This won’t be the first time Nelson publicly embraced O’Rourke. At his annual Fourth of July Picnic, Nelson had the candidate join him onstage to perform. So his upcoming show just reaffirms support he’s been giving for months. And if his riled-up Facebook followers were paying attention, they wouldn’t be as shocked as they seem to be. Luckily, there are a lot of other fans more versed in the music legend, like Jeff Roddam, who wrote, “On what planet does anyone think Willie would have conservative leanings? How delusional can people be?” and David Lintner, whose post noted, “I think it’s hilarious that this comes as a surprise to some of you spurned ‘fans.'” Hilarious is one word for it.

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