Michael Hiestand has covered sports media and marketing for USA TODAY, tackling the sports biz ranging from what's behind mega-events such as the Olympics and Super Bowl to the sometimes-hidden numbers behind the sports world's bottom line. Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From The Road (William Morrow), by Willie Nelson, with a foreword by Texas Jewboy Kinky Friedman, can be read in one sitting.
Willie’s also a big fan of the three-fingered gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953), whose “Nuages” he covers on the upcoming album.
Willie is as comfortable playing with jazz trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis as he is playing reggae, blues or standards.
He tells a few jokes and gives out with one Major League piece of advice: “If you want to be a star, you should start acting like one now, so that when you become one, you will already know how to behave, and maybe you won’t blow it.
The only thing he likes more than his own voice is the sound of readers telling him when he's right and wrong.
Consider it dessert to the much more substantial main course of Joe Nick Patoski’s Willie Nelson: An Epic Life. Even had a gunfight once when he kicked off his property the abusive husband of his daughter and the wife-beater came back shooting. Willie lists Billy Joe Shaver, Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Vern Gosdin. His current album, Heroes, is terrific and his new album, Let’s Face The Music And Dance, due this spring, will have new originals and covers in the Willie way of Irving Berlin, Carl Perkins, and most surprisingly, Spade Cooley.
Cooley (1910-1969) has fallen out of favor ever since he murdered his wife who had an affair with cowboy movie star Roy Rogers. In fulfilling his dream Willie was a beneficiary of the very society that fellow blacks were trying to reshape, reform or topple."Hirsch talked to Game On!

Now is a good time because Willie is at a point in his life, he's 78, where he can reflect perhaps in ways that he couldn't have or wouldn't have years before.Did you see Mays as a tragic figure at all?No.
He was born in the depression in the deep south where African-Americans were denied the most basic rights and he has this tremendous trajectory to where he is now.
He is treated like royalty in any corner of the country and can go on Air Force One with the President of the United States.
I learned so much from watching Willie play, and his unique phrasing has given me a musical education I would have received nowhere else.” The book features other testimonials including his sister, his fourth wife, Annie, and some of his six children and seven grandchildren (but none of his eight great-grandchildren). Willie said to me at one point  "I could never have dreamed the life that I have lived." He is very proud of the life that he lived in being a role model for kids.
So, I don't think he has very many regrets at all.But he started and ended as a solitary figure did he not?The book is not a valentine to Willie Mays.
And to Willie's credit -- he  had no editorial control -- but he didn't ask me to change a single word. He tells the story, that when he was a player, when he was going well he would get a ton of letters from adults. Then he would go into a slump and the letters from the adults would stop but the kids would keep writing him. Willie just has a very generous heart and to make life better for those kids even if just for those few moments.He didn't trust many adults did he?It takes a long time to build that trust. As Willie said "I was programmed to never raise my voice, to keep my head down" and that is what he's done for 50 plus years as an adult. Hope fully, what the book does is explain why Willie is so reluctant to embrace others and trust.Did you have trouble defining his greatness?Every person whom I interviewed who saw Mays play one of the questions I asked "can you explain what it looked like" (for someone who had never seen him play).

Here was one of the most prominent black people in America at that time of great turbulence in race relations.
In fulfilling his dream, Willie was a beneficiary of the very society that fellow blacks were trying to reshape, reform or topple. That was one of the most interesting and controversial parts of his legacy because Jackie Robinson and others were so critical of him. But I argue, and hopefully support  the case, that Willie's prominence actually made him a significant contributor to the Civil Rights movements because so many white Americans loved him and they saw him play and they embraced him. I saw this book not just a story about a great baseball player who overlapped this era and communities of baseball but it was also a way to get a glimpse at the country's changing racial dynamics.What do you want people to gain from the book?What is this person's legacy? And then even more important were the loving memories that have been passed to future generations so they might know the magic and the beauty of the game. There is this sense,  this magic and beauty of the game that their parents or grandparents might have passed onto them.Are you totally satisfied with the book?My one regret is that I was not able to talk to Willie's wife Mae because of her Alzheimer's. You spend just a little time with Willie and it is clear that it is important to him that she is always cared for.

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