“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” the song, is a surprisingly spry sing-along from Willie Nelson, not the blunt — ha! — bit of ham you’d expect from a tune with such a name. It offers us crotchety country conservatives the best access to Snoop Dogg since the Gourds introduced us to “Gin & Juice.”
“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” the book, is an excellent chance to have a book named “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” on your coffee table, maybe between the bong and the Fritos. It doesn’t offer quite so much to us crotchety country conservatives.
Well, maybe if he’s indeed a Red Headed Stranger, you’ll enjoy the light reading. But if you’re familiar with Willie — somewhere between a mild fan and a build-a-shrine fanatic — you’ve heard most of this before:
- There’s the childhood bumblebee fights and the Booger Red tale.
- There’s the tree-trimming incident and the bluff that got him his radio station job in Pleasanton.
- And if you’re keeping track of Kinky Friedman, too, the foreword includes the obligatory Willie song pun and reference to the size of a Willie Nelson joint (this one, sadly, only as large as a large kosher salami).
“RMUASMWID” … sorry, that’s horrible, let’s just call it “Roll Me Up” … is essentially an updated version of Willie’s highly enjoyable “The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes” (Random House 2002), with its mix of autobiographical bits, musings, jokes and song lyrics. How similar are they? The same golf joke and a pair of drunk jokes are in both books.
There are moments of discovery: Willie plays Wii golf? A Leon Russell show in Albuquerque helped inspire the Fourth of July Picnics? And there are moments of predictability: An impassioned case for the legalization of marijuana and a fondness for a certain stop in Europe — “Amsterdam is heaven.”
He even turns serious a time or two, noting that he’s against assault weapons and for troops on the border. But he spends much more time talking about dominoes and Maui. Apparently actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson are frequent guests and domino victims. I’d like to hear more about those nights than see lyrics to songs I already know by heart.
“Roll Me Up” turns into a love-fest by the end, borrowing from the “let’s-hear-from-the-family” excerpt format found in his 1988 biography “Willie,” (with Bud Shrake) to exchange praise with his wife, kids and grandkids. I’d never fault a man for praising his talented children (son Micah did the illustrations for the book), but only Lana Nelson’s recollection of working for dad in the mid-1970s makes for compelling reading.
For a while there between “Spirit” and “Heroes,” I treated most new Willie Nelson albums (or at least those prominently featuring Toby Keith) as an opportunity to go buy an old album I didn’t have. There’s no reason not to look at “Roll Me Up” in the same light. If you have to have it, it’s out this week. But there are better Willie books out there.
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