Willie Sings His Heart Out for B&R
By Paul Liberatore
Marin Independent Journal
Friday Lifestyle - November 27, 1998
After back-to-back concerts in Marin for thousands of paying customers, Willie Nelson gave something back before he left town, performing a free concert Monday night at San Francisco's Delancey Street.
This was a "highlight" presentation of Mimi Farina's Bread & Roses, the Marin organization that's been bringing live entertainment into institutions for nearly 25 years.
Corte Madera-based B&R puts on something like 40 perfectly wonderful shows a month at 75 different institutions in the Bay Area, but, obviously, this was not your average convalescent home singalong.
The country music superstar and his band (with Mill Valley guitarist, Jackie King sitting in) played like they were getting paid, and they were, just not in money. Willie did his entire concert set, 2 1/2 hours without a break, while 450 grateful Delancey Streeters, all of them recovering from substance abuse and other problems, stood and cheered and felt like they must be doing something right.
Afterward, an excitable Mimi Silbert, the irrepressible Delancey Street founder, a Willie Nelson red bandana clamped on her head, could scarcely contain herself.
"They could have played three songs, said ´Stay clean and sober´, and left." she exulted from the stage. "But they did 2 1/2 hours!"
And later, visiting Willie on his gleaming tour bus, "The Red Headed Stranger," Silbert thanked him, profusely.
"That was the best thing that's happened in 27 years of Delancey Street," she declared. "We've had every president since Jimmy Carter here and they are all nothing compared to this. I'm going to squeal all night."
Willie, who will receive a Kennedy Center Honor in December, handled it all with equanimity.
"I hated to leave that crowd," he said quietly. "They were very enthusiastic. I think they appreciated us. It felt like the right place to be."
Nelson, the original country music outlaw and one of the stars of FarmAid, is known for doing benefits for causes he believes in, including his share of prison shows. Asked why he enjoys performing behind bars, Willie said in all seriousness, "It's a chance to see some of my friends."
Photos by Ken Friedman