Willie Nelson is lucky to have had good friends to help him face his demons.
In his new book Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship, the legendary country star opens up about his 65-year friendship with drummer Paul English, who passed away in 2020.
The artist reveals in the memoir that early in his career, English helps steer him through a period of deep and dark depression.
“Looking back over my life, my early days in Nashville were a definite low point,” Nelson writes, in an excerpt published by People. “I’m not one to easily fall prey to depression, but depression had me in its grips.”
He recalls that during a night of heavy drinking, “I thought about an old song I’d heard Lightnin’ Hopkins cut back at Gold Studios in Houston. He sang about feeling so bad until he lay his head on some lonesome railroad line and let it ease his troubled mind. So why not?”
Nelson explains that there were no railroads nearby on that snowy night, “but there was Broadway—the city’s main thoroughfare.”
He went to the street and lay himself down in the middle of the road in order to commit suicide.
“Eyes closed. Ready to move on and move out. If this world wasn’t working, maybe the next one would. I lay for five minutes, then ten, then fifteen,” Nelson says. “Don’t know why—maybe it was the bad weather and the late hour—but there was hardly any traffic. If one or two drivers saw me, they swerved out of the way.”
After finally going back to the bar to contemplate things, English dropped by, helping see the possibilities of living on.
Nelson says that his friend “really believed in a rosy future at a time when I couldn’t afford to buy my wife a dozen roses.”
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.