Willie Nelson released a new rendition of pop standard “That’s Life” along with a lyric video. It’s the title track from his upcoming standards album due February 26. The album is dedicated to Frank Sinatra, who recorded the most famous version of the tune.
The country legend adds plenty of his own flavor to the classic song, his voice full of his own charm. Some of the lyrics could be said to fit into the feeling of 2020 going into 2021, “And if nothing’s shaken around here come July, I’ll just roll myself up in a big ball and die.” The instrumental is more fitting his style as well. There’s still some theatrical organ like in the Sinatra rendition, but it sits deeper in the mix behind piano, standup bass and harmonica. Nelson does without the backing vocals, strings and brass instruments as well, in favor of a warmer take on it.
The video places the song’s lyrics over a time-lapse of artist Paul Mann painting the album’s cover art, which shows Nelson bathed in blue, standing in front of a streetlight with his guitar. The artwork was inspired by iconic Sinatra covers like In the Wee Small Hours (1955). Mann is known for his paintings of alternative movie posters for famous films like the Indiana Jones series, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz and many more.
“That’s Life” was originally written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, and first recorded by Marion Montgomery in 1963. Sinatra’s highly popular cover of it came out in 1966, leading to many other artists’ covers since.
Nelson’s upcoming full-length was recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, since Sinatra had been the first artist to record there and a longtime patron. It’s his second Sinatra tribute album after 2018’s My Way.
His previous album was July 2020’s First Rose of Spring. Since then, he released a political track called “Vote ‘em Out” and covered Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This month, SXSW announced that Nelson would be one of the speakers at 2021’s virtual event.