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Willie Nelson Through the Years [PICTURES]

Willie Nelson‘s trademark braids make him one of the most instantly recognizable celebrities in the world — but he looked a little (okay, a lot) different in his early years. In fact, younger fans may not recognize the singer in photos from when he first entered the music scene!

Before Nelson became one of music’s biggest icons, his look was much more straight-laced: His first album, … And Then I Wrote, for Liberty Records, was released in 1962 and featured Nelson on the cover sporting short hair and a suit. That same year, Patsy Cline released “Crazy,” which Nelson penned.

From there, the Texas native’s career continued to build as he wrote music for himself and also lent his writing skills to classic songs such as “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Hello Walls” and “Pretty Paper.” After leaving Nashville for Austin, Nelson grew out his hair and took on the role of a country “outlaw” in the 1970s, when his popularity skyrocketed.

In the decades since, Nelson has worked with an uncountable number of other musicians — including multiple projects with fellow country outlaw and good friend Waylon Jennings — and he’s dabbled in genre-bending recordings that run the gamut from reggae to jazz. Click through the photo gallery above to relive all the major moments in Nelson’s career and personal life.

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NEXT: Top 10 Willie Nelson Songs

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