Country music legend Willie Nelson is celebrating his 80th birthday this year, just as you might expect –– on stage and surrounded by family, artist-friends and fans.
Nelson will perform 9 p.m Saturday, June 8, at Caesars Atlantic City, two days after taking part in a special birthday concert and tribute at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York.
The New York show will feature many of Nelson's children and grandchildren on stage, along with Toad the Wet Sprocket and Robert Randolph, with a birthday day cake created by "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro.
Another tribute will air June 23 on CMT's "Crossroads" with an all-star lineup including Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Ashley Monroe and Jamey Johnson, who opened for Nelson during his last tour.
In May, Nelson, along with Annie Lennox and Carole King, received an honorary doctoral degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and participated in the school's commencement concert.
"I was going to ask them if I could write my own medication," Nelson, who favors the legalization of marijuana, tells The Boston Globe. "Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to ask."
The 10-time Grammy winner has just released yet another album, "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (Legacy Recordings), a collection of standards performed by him and his sister, Bobbie, throughout their careers, including the title track, "You'll Never Know" and "South of the Border."
Even with all the special attention for his milestone birthday, the Country Music Hall of Famer is going about his touring business as usual.
The Caesars' concert is the third in a summer tour of the U.S. that will entail three dozen dates before Labor Day. Then, after taking much of September off, Nelson will hit the road again.
Although the years have taken their toll on Nelson's reedy voice and guitar licks, he uses his deep catalog and fine ear for covers to full effect to please his loyal audience, according to Naples Daily News critic Tom Hanson.
"For 90 minutes, Nelson gave them want they wanted. He stood front and center with his best friend, Trigger, a beaten-and-battered, autographed-filled Martin guitar, around his neck," Hanson writes about an April 30 show at the Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.
Following his longstanding tradition, Nelson opened the show with his 1979 hit, "Whiskey River," with a giant Texas flag hanging as a backdrop.
From there, he mixed in covers of country classics by others –– Waylon Jennings' "Good-Hearted Women," Hank Williams' "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" and "Hey, Good Lookin" and Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" –– with his own.
"He made it through the night with barely a break," Hanson writes. "And as the night wore on he was like a fine wine: He got better."
Nelson delivered especially strong renditions of his own songs, including "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "You Were Always on My Mind," and "On The Road Again," as well as his 2012 track - and the title of his most recent book - about how he wants to leave this Earth: "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die."
Since the concert took place on his birthday, Nelson couldn't help but acknowledge the date, by performing "Happy Birthday to Me."
"Only he could get away with singing to himself," Hanson writes. "He's Willie Nelson. He's a living legend."