Politics

Willie Nelson to Headline Rally for Texas Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke

It will be 85-year-old country music legend's first-ever performance at a free, rally-style event for a political candidate

Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke plays with country music legend Willie Nelson at a concert in July. (From @BetoORourke)

Willie Nelson may be getting up there in years, but there’s always time for firsts.

And for the first time ever, the 85-year-old country music star will take the stage to perform on behalf of a political candidate at a free-admission campaign rally.

Nelson is the headline act for a rally in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 29 for Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic Texas Senate candidate who has gained national fame for his punk rock past and a viral video of him defending NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

“My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed,” Nelson said in a statement, Rolling Stone reported. “Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine.”

To be certain, Nelson has performed in a number of political settings, including on the White House’s South Lawn for President Jimmy Carter back in 1980.

He also performed at campaign events in 2004 and 2012 for former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

And much, much more recently — as in, July — Nelson brought O’Rourke onstage to play guitar as he finished his set list with the classics “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

But this month will mark the first time he has strummed and sung directly for a political candidate at a free rally.

Nelson has received backlash from many of his fans on Facebook for dipping into politics.

O’Rourke is mounting a grassroots, underdog campaign in a traditionally solid red state with rapidly changing demographics where Democrats see future inroads.

O’Rourke trailed by 4 points in a recent poll to incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who also has a national following after unsuccessful primary bids for president in 2012 and 2016.

President Donald Trump won the Lone Star State by 9 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 after Republican Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 16 points in 2012.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the nature of Nelson's historical involvement in political campaigns by stating it was his first time performing directly for a political candidate. It is actually Nelson's first time performing at a free-admission campaign rally.

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