Country legend Willie Nelson is mourning the loss of his sister and longtime bandmate, Bobbie Nelson, who passed away on Thursday (March 10). She was 91.
According to a statement from the Nelson family, Bobbie died “peacefully and surrounded by family” on Thursday morning, and is remembered fondly as a “beloved pianist, musician, and author.”
“Her elegance, grace, beauty and talent made this world a better place,” the statement reads. “She was the first member of Willie’s band, as his pianist and singer. Our hearts are broken and she will be deeply missed. But we are so lucky to have had her in our lives. Please keep her family in your thoughts and give them the privacy they need at this time.”
Although Bobbie was actually Willie’s older sister, the country icon often referred to her as “little sister” on stage, and the two had a lifelong musical connection. Raised by their grandparents in Abbott, Texas, Bobbie and Willie performed together locally before her brother struck his first Nashville record deal, then stepped away to raise her children. By the early ’70s, however, Willie’s career was underway and he needed a touring band, and Bobbi was the first one on the bus.
A joyful but somewhat-shy fixture of his concerts, Bobbie also appeared on many of her brother’s biggest albums, including Red Headed Stranger, Stardust and more. In later life, she had begun an artistic career of her own, recording the album Audiobiography in 2007 and co-authoring the book Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band in 2020.
The pair also released a children’s book titled Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music in 2021, and Bobbie was featured on the 2021 album The Willie Nelson Family — a gospel-inflected project made by Willie and Bobbie, plus Willie’s sons Lukas, Micah, and daughters Paula and Amy.
Willie’s next album A Beautiful Time will arrive on his 89th birthday, April 29, 2022, and he recently released a single titled “I’ll Love You Till the Day I Die.” According to a detailed remembrance in Variety, Bobbie and Willie played their final show together on October 9 of 2021, at the Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Texas.