Willie's debut CD cover
|Birth name||Robert Noonan|
Buffalo, New York
|Origin||Buffalo, NY, U.S.|
|Genres||Folk, Alternative, Rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Organ, Harmonica|
|Labels||Arista, Columbia, 00:02:59|
Willie Nile (born Robert Anthony Noonan on June 7, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter. In 1980 Nile released his self-titled debut album which according to one critic remains “one of the most thrilling post-Byrds folk-rock albums of all time”. His career was interrupted several times by various problems, but he has always returned to recording and performing in the US and Europe, re-establishing himself as a singer-songwriter.
Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Nile came from a musical family—his grandfather was a vaudeville pianist who played with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Eddie Cantor; his uncles played boogie-woogie. His listened to the music of Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Fats Domino, brought home by his older brothers. Nile himself began playing piano at age eight and took classical music lessons until he was a teenager, when he taught himself his first rock & roll song. He soon began to compose short songs and continued the habit into his college years, when during the summers he made trips into New York City to frequent hootenanny clubs like Folk City and the Gaslight.
Nile studied philosophy at the University at Buffalo where he received a BA in 1971, before heading for Greenwich Village. After graduation, Nile took an apartment in the Village; however, during his first winter in New York, he contracted pneumonia, which put him out of commission for about a year. He continued writing songs while recuperating, determined to make a name for himself as a latter-day troubadour. He pursued that throughout the 1970s, becoming a regular in the Village folk and rock scenes and getting tabbed by some as the next big thing to come out of that long-thriving artistic community.
Establishing residency at the Village club Kenny's Castaways on Bleecker St., Nile began drawing crowds, which in turn led to his first record deal. In a review in The New York Times, rock critic Robert Palmer wrote of Nile; "Every once in awhile the times seems to produce an artist who is at once an iconoclast and near-perfect expression of contemporary currents. He is one of the best singer-songwriters to emerge from the New York scene in a long time."
Following a measure of critical acclaim, he had conversations with representatives from several record companies; he was signed by Arista Records, and went into the studio with a band that included Jay Dee Daugherty from the Patti Smith Group. The measure of excitement surrounding his self-titled debut album, Willie Nile, allegedly prompted Pete Townsend to request Willie's presence on the Who 's summer tour. Nile and his band were soon on the road with The Who, only a few months after Willie's first experience playing with a band. After two albums, the self-titled 1980 debut and 1981's Golden Down, Nile was involved with protracted legal problems which, among other things, managed to derail his career for a number of years.
Although he continued to write, Nile did not perform live or record again until a 1987 performance in Oslo, Norway, with Eric Andersen. A videotape of Nile’s performance in Norway prompted a Columbia talent scout to sign him to the label in 1988. For reasons that are unclear, production on his album didn't start for two more years. It was another significant delay in the troubadour’s career. Issued in 1991, His Columbia Records CD Places I Have Never Been contained the songs "Everybody Needs A Hammer" and "Heaven Help The Lonely." Places I Have Never Been featured appearances by backing musicians including Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Roger McGuinn, and members of the Hooters and the Roches. His 1992 EP release, Hard Times in America, became a favorite among some listeners in Europe.
Nile has recorded and performed with several musicians, including Ringo Starr, Tori Amos, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Ian Hunter, and Barenaked Ladies. A live Central Park concert album, Willie Nile-Archive Alive, was released on Archive Recordings, and Nile was one of the vocalists on the ensemble album Largo[disambiguation needed], along with Joan Osborne, Cyndi Lauper, Levon Helm, The Chieftains, Taj Mahal and Carole King. Another project found Nile writing and performing most of the songs for the soundtrack to the Kevin McLaughlin film Pinch Me!.
“Nile’s defining quality among his fans is his charismatic spirit. It’s a passion and enthusiasm that is infectious to his fans and earned Nile the admiration of fans and peers alike.”  From Shea to the clubs and concert halls of Europe, "his live performances are legendary." to his fans.
Gathering together his resources over time, he put out his first self-released album, Beautiful Wreck of the World, in 1999. It was chosen as one of the Top Ten Albums of the Year by critics at Billboard Magazine, The Village Voice and Stereo Review. Lucinda Williams called "On the Road to Calvary," Nile's song for Jeff Buckley, "One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." The album reached the finals of the Independent Music Awards for Best Rock Album of the Year.
In 2006, Nile released Streets of New York, which some may consider to be his best work to date, due to its production and songwriting. Former Time magazine music critic and Academy Award winning screenwriter Jay Cocks writes of Streets of New York, "The tunes he writes and plays with such blowtorch vibrancy get the myth and magic and danger and sadness and love in this town--of this town--truer, and righter, than anything I've heard since Dion. This record is a head-twister and heart-wrencher. It's rock and roll at its best. It's New York at its best. And there's nothing better than that."
House Of A Thousand Guitars was released to positive reviews on April 14, 2009.
“The Buffalo News” said that their hometown troubadour's “Streets of New York”, “House of a Thousand Guitars” and “The Innocent Ones”; stand as “three of the finest recordings to ever straddle the worlds of “singer/songwriter” fare and good ol’street-tough rock ‘n’ roll”.
- 1980 - Willie Nile
- 1981 - Golden Down
- 1991 - Places I Have Never Been
- 1999 - Beautiful Wreck of the World
- 2006 - Streets of New York
- 2009 - House Of A Thousand Guitars
- 2010 - The Innocent Ones
- 2013 - American Ride
- 1997 - Live in Central Park - Archive Alive!
- 2007 - Live at Turning Point
- 2008 - Live From the Streets of New York
- 2011 - Live Hard Times in the UK
- 1992 - Hard Times in America
- 2008 - Live From the Streets of New York
- 1990 – Acoustic Christmas – We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- 1991 – Stages: The Lost Album – Electric Guitar, various songs
- 1995 – Troubadours of Folk, Vol. 5 -- Behind the Cathedral
- 1998 – Largo – Medallion
- 2007 - The Sandinista! Project - Police on My Back
- 2007 - The Dream Jam Band
- MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Dave Okamoto, 1999, pg. 814-815.
- Robert Palmer, "New York Times", July 29, 1978.
- Busting out of Bleecker Street, Rolling Stone Magazine, August 21, 1980, page 20.
- “Richard Skelly, All Music Guide”.
- Pinch Me! movie website
- Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Tour 2003 Set List
- Billboard Magazine October 6, 2003
- Mayer Danzig – Twangville January 10, 2007
- Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Induction Notes
- Goldstein, Stan. "Bruce Springsteen plays the final show of his 2009 tour in Buffalo on Sunday nighthis". NJ.com. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
- Miers, Jeff (March 4, 2011). "Songs of experience". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- Clash, The; Joe Grushecky; Katrina Leskanich; Willie Nile; Ship & Pilot.; Soul Food (Musical group); Sunset Heroes (2004-09-21). The Sandinista! Project A Tribute to the Clash (Compact Disc). England: 00:02:59 Records. OCLC 178980813.
- Willie Nile Official Website
- Yahoo Wille Nile Bio
- Willie Nile at Allmusic
- Willie Nile at the Internet Movie Database