Willie Nelson Reveals Life-Threatening COVID Battle
Willie Nelson postponed several shows earlier this year because a band member had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. That band member, it turns out, was him.
For a week, the country legend fought the virus. He says, "I had a pretty rough time with it," but his wife Annie tells the New York Times Magazine, "There were a couple of times when I wasn't sure he was going to make it."
The story from last May comes at the end of a long career profile of the 89-year-old Nelson. Published on Aug. 17, it's only available online to subscribers.
"COVID ain't nothing to laugh at, that's for sure."
Two concerts were postponed and another canceled because of the illness. There was some fan concern for Nelson at the time, as his breathing troubles have been well-documented, making him a high-risk patient should he contract the virus. Still, his team only let it be known that someone in the band had caught COVID-19, and he was back on stage within the month.
Still, the magazine shares, walking has become increasingly difficult for Nelson post-COVID. He may gasp getting to the stage, but singing and playing guitar ease the strain.
Nelson's COVID battle began in Nashville ahead of a scheduled show at the FirstBank Amphitheater in Franklin, Tenn., on May 6. He woke up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe. After he tested positive, his wife snapped into action.
"I had a nebulizer on the bus," she says. "I started everything I could at that point, including Paxlovid. He had the monoclonal antibodies. He had steroids."
The tour bus headed home to Luck Ranch in Austin, Texas, and once there, Annie "turned the house into a hospital." Six days later, everyone was much more optimistic about his condition and future. He's continued to play shows since, but has maintained strict COVID rules, including plenty of space between him and musicians on stage and off, daily COVID tests for band and crew and mask wearing.
"COVID ain't nothing to laugh at, that's for sure," Nelson says.
Taste of Country was on hand to see Nelson perform at the Palomino Festival in Pasadena, Calif., in July.