Singer, song writer, poet, author and activist Willie Nelson is 80 today, or maybe tomorrow

The singer whose birthday is Monday or Tuesday – Nelson says April 29, the state of Texas claims April 30 – occupies a unique space in America’s cultural memory. A walking bag of contradictions, he wears his hair long in braids and has a penchant for pot smoking, yet remains arguably conservative country music’s greatest songwriter. He’s accepted by left and right, black and white and is instantly recognizable to a majority of Americans.Like few other music stars, his image has grown to represent more than the notes he’s played or the lyrics he’s written. Like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra, he’s become a figurehead for a uniquely American way of thinking. He represents the outlaw and the maverick. If Elvis was all about the pelvis and the sexual revolution, Nelson is American independence: the raised middle finger tossed with a twinkle in the eye.

Willie’s activism has brought attention to such causes as small farmers, organizing Farm Aid in 1985 along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp that still raises money for small family farmers.

He is also the co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) advisory board that supports its legalization, regulation and taxation.

Willie’s activism doesn’t end there. He has support and invested in biodiesal, the better treatment for horses and the LGBT movement calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In 2008, Willie was interviewed by Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!. Here is an excerpt from that hour long interview

“One person carrying a message can change the world.”

Happy Birthday, Willie, and many more.