WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Willie Nelson became the first country singer to receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress Wednesday.
Nelson, 82, was celebrated for his decades-long career and musical contribution to American culture at the library's Thomas Jefferson Building. The event, including a concert, was recorded and will air on PBS in January, the Library announced.
"It is a great honor to be receiving the Gershwin award," Nelson said to attendees before announcing a newly completed project. "I have been a fan of Ira and George Gershwins' music since I was a little guy and in appreciation for the award -- and also I wanted to make some great music -- I've just recorded a complete Gershwin album. It's called Summertime."
"Willie Nelson is a musical explorer, redrawing the boundaries of country music throughout his career," said Librarian of Congress James Billington in a July statement. "A master communicator, the sincerity and universally appealing message of his lyrics place him in a category of his own while still remaining grounded in his country-music roots...He has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression."
Nelson is renowned as one of the most influential country singers of all time, having spent around 60 years producing music including over 200 albums and earning seven Grammy Awards. In 1990, the singer was honored with the Grammy Living Legend award; in 2001 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.