Willie Nelson Will Be the Keynote Speaker at SXSW’s 2021 Online Event
Willie Nelson has been announced as the 2021 keynote speaker for the SXSW Online conference, Rolling Stone reports. This year's event will take place in March, and for the second year in a row, SXSW will not be held in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"No individual has had the cultural impact on or been more synonymous with the creative vibrancy of Austin than Willie Nelson," explains Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest, "and we are incredibly honored to have him as a SXSW Online 2021 Keynote."
Nelson is one of a number of cultural luminaries appearing at this year's virtual festival. Actor Matthew McConaughey, comedian and show host Samantha Bee, Devo bandmate Mark Mothersbaugh and rapper Wyclef Jean are also among those speaking or appearing on panels. LL Cool J and Queen Latifah will appear in conversation, and there will be a panel dedicated to the Genius: Aretha Franklin docuseries. That's one of more than 200 panels taking place during SXSW, focusing on everything from the impact of the pandemic on live music to the rise of TikTok as a hitmaking booster.
Keynote speakers from previous years include Sonic Youth rocker Kim Gordon and comedian Kathy Griffin.
Nelson, a Texas native, has a long history with SXSW. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic's onset, the country legend's Luck Reunion at Spicewood Ranch became a mainstay of the festival. In 2019, Mavis Staples headlined a new stage dedicated to female artists during the single-day showcase.
Even though he's been unable to spend time on the road over the past year, Nelson's been keeping busy: In December, he announced the upcoming release of That's Life, his second tribute album to Frank Sinatra.
See Pictures of Willie Nelson Through the Years: