Willie Nelson’s Family Gets Emotional Discussing Death Of His Son, Billy

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Willie Nelson’s Family Recalls How The 1991 Death Of His Eldest Son, Billy, Affected Him

Willie Nelson‘s life was recently highlighted in a new four-part docuseries on Paramount+. Called WILLIE NELSON & FAMILY, the series explores the highs and lows of Willie’s 90 years on this Earth.

Members of Willie’s family, including his children, were interviewed for the project. They offered up their unique and deeply personal perspectives on Willie’s extraordinary life and career.

Willie is a father of eight. He shared three children with his first wife, Martha Matthews: Lana, Susie, and Willie “Billy” Hugh Jr. He later welcomed two daughters, Paula and Amy, with his third wife, Connie Koepke.


Just a few years ago, in 2012, Willie learned that he shared a daughter with his friend Mary Haney. Her name was Rene. Willie’s youngest children are his sons Lukas and Micah, who he shares with his now-wife Annie D’Angelo.

Sadly, both Billy and Rene have passed away.

Willie’s Daughter, Paula, Says Billy’s Death “Was Terribly Hard On Him”

Rene passed away in 2017, just five years after Willie learned about her. Billy died by suicide on Christmas Day in 1991. He was only 33 years old.

Willie’s daughter, Lana, said in the WILLIE NELSON & FAMILY series that Billy struggled with depression. “He didn’t want to be depressed, he didn’t want to be that guy. He tried really hard, he did.”

Susie, who is just 17 months older than Billy, said, “We did everything together, but he had a lot of issues. They became more and more.”

Willie Nelson’s daughter, Paula, got emotional while discussing Billy’s death. She shared how the loss affected their father:

“When Billy passed, it was terribly hard on him — on all of us. It was really hard for him because that was his first son.”

Willie himself only briefly spoke about Billy’s death in the series. He said, “Those were bad times,” in reference to the following year (1992) as a whole, which was also when he struggled with the IRS.

Willie Nelson's portrait, in black and white
Kris Connor / Getty Images

Willie’s sister, Bobbie (who died in 2022), said they never talked much about Billy’s death. Though they “grew even closer” following the tragedy:

It’s not that we had long talks about our grief — that’s not Willie’s way. We didn’t have to talk about it. We knew.”

Head below to watch the official trailer for Willie Nelson’s Paramount+ show WILLIE NELSON & FAMILY for some additional insight into the series.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text “TALK ” to 741-741, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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