Country music's greatest outlaw: Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson? | The Tylt

Country music's greatest outlaw: Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson?

Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson are part of country music's Outlaw Movement: a rebellion against the saccharine culture of Nashville's Music Row. Cash, who famously sang he'd "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," fought the law and drug addiction, and recorded albums in Folsom Prison and San Quentin. Willie Nelson rebelled by bringing a hippie ethos to country; he's a cannabis activist who's still getting busted for having pot on his tour bus. Both are icons—but who's the greatest outlaw?

FINAL RESULTS
Entertainment
Country music's greatest outlaw: Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson?
A festive crown for the winner
#JohnnyCashOutlaw
#WillieNelsonOutlaw
Dataviz
Real-time Voting
Country music's greatest outlaw: Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson?
#JohnnyCashOutlaw
#WillieNelsonOutlaw
#JohnnyCashOutlaw

Johnny Cash was arrested seven different times and spent a few nights in jail. He performed in prisons throughout his career, and empathized with the plight of prisoners. In 1958, 20-year-old Merle Haggard was serving time at Folsom Prison, and saw Cash perform live. 

Later, Merle talked about that iconic performance saying, “He had the right attitude. He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards—he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan.”
#WillieNelsonOutlaw

Willie Nelson's outlaw status is cemented by his fervent love of pot smoking, frequent drug possession arrests, and advocacy for legalization. But he  rebelled against the Nashville power structure as well, striking out in his own in the 1970s and carving out his own sphere in the country music world. Even his blue jeans and long hair defied the rhinestone-covered ethos of country performers of the day.

"In the 1960s, Willie Nelson was considered one of the best songwriters in Nashville, penning hits for greats like Ray Price and Patsy Cline. Nelson was also a great performer in his own right but didn’t fit in with the standards of the music industry.
Fed up with the system of his day...Nelson packed up and headed back to his home state of Texas, settling in Austin. In Texas, Nelson could be himself, and he quickly gained a strong and devoted following by cultivating his own brand of country, which brought together the cowboys and the hippies.
Nelson’s efforts and his music and the music of his contemporaries were instrumental in the development of outlaw country and the Texas country music, which is uniquely different from what’s happening in Nashville."
#WillieNelsonOutlaw

Now in his 80s, Nelson still tours regularly and sits on the board of NORML, an advocacy group fighting against marijuana prohibition. For many, his longevity makes him the ultimate outlaw.

#WillieNelsonOutlaw
#JohnnyCashOutlaw

But for others, Cash's live prison recordings cemented him in history as country's greatest outlaw.

#JohnnyCashOutlaw

Cash advocated for prison reform as well as Native American rights, and became an antiwar protester in his later years.

Johnny Cash fought his whole career for the ideals that he believed in. He fought the music industry. He fought the politicians. He fought his own personal demons. He fought the very norms of what it was thought to be a patriotic American.
FINAL RESULTS
Entertainment
Country music's greatest outlaw: Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson?
A festive crown for the winner
#JohnnyCashOutlaw
#WillieNelsonOutlaw