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Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville

by Michael Streissguth

Part biographies of these three legendary musicians and part exploration of the changing Nashville music scene in the late 1960s, Outlaw is a fascinating, in-depth look at a major turning point in country music and the formidable forces behind that change.

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson found themselves in Nashville, writing songs, riffing with fellow songwriters and musicians, and vying for recording contracts. All three picked up on the unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s—the protests, the feminists, the reactions to the Vietnam War, racial tensions, changing political factions—and began inserting those notions into their music. All three resisted the country music industry’s unwritten rules, which prescribed the length, meter, and content of songs, as well as how they wre recorded, thus cementing themselves as the leaders of the outlaw movement. All three worked to establish a new genre of country music—one that ultimately changed the recording industry.

Acclaimed author Michael Streissguth tracks the paths of Waylon, Willie, and Kris, and he offers a broad portrait of the outlaw movement in Nashville, making room for a diverse secondary cast, including Johnny Cash, Rodney Crowell, Kinky Friedman, and Billy Joe Shaver, among others. Nashville also serves as an important—and lively—character in this exploration of outlaw country. The city was rife with political activism and musical experimentation, and its West End became Nashville’s very own Greenwich Village.

Outlaw is a comprehensive and thoughtful examination of a fascinating shift in country msuic and the three unbelievably talented musicians who forged the way.

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