November 2018

Making it for Real

A journey to stardom: Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real

Lukas Nelson has always been inspired by Neil Young. He grew up in the light of his father, Willie Nelson, but has paved his own path to success as a songwriter, bandleader, and skilled guitarist. He most recently played a major role in the production of the album from the film A Star is Born, and he and the Promise of the Real played the band in the movie.

National Standards: 7-9, 11


Have the class read Making it For Real (page 34 of the student edition). The article talks about the recent and original successes of rockstar Lukas Nelson and his band: Promise of the Real.

Key points in the article:

    • Son of country music legend Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson is Neil Young’s biggest fan. He has been playing 60’s rock ’n’ roll music since he was a little boy.
    • Eventually, Nelson became an accomplished musician and ended up touring with Young, and then became an official member of his band.
    • Most recently Nelson was sought out by Bradley Cooper, director and actor in the 2018 rendition of the film A Star is Born. He wrote many songs in collaboration with Cooper and co-star Lady Gaga.
    • As monumental an accomplishment as co-writing a soundtrack that has three consecutive weeks on Billboard’s 200 chart is, Nelson names his greatest feat as putting together his band including childhood neighbors and respected friends, called Promise of the Real.
    • Lukas’s personal life and career have (not surprisingly) been shaped by his father, Willie. He was not privileged just because of his father’s success, in fact, carrying on the family name inspired Lukas to work even harder.
    • Even with music running through his veins, Lukas is always seeking opportunities to learn about subjects other than music. Physics, math, and science are actually hobbies of his. He is even currently taking an online calculus class in his spare time.
    • Nelson encourages young musicians to follow their dreams with every ounce of energy they have.


Review vocabulary words from the article below:

  • BURGEON: begin to grow or increase rapidly; flourish
  • BEMUSE: puzzle, confuse or bewilder
  • SHAMAN: a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits
  • FORTUITOUS: happening by accident or chance rather than design
  • ACCLIMATE: become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions
  • IDIOSYNCRATIC: of a distinctive or peculiar feature or characteristic
  • RECONCILE: make consistent with one another


  • Have an open conversation about the pros and cons of having a father who is a music icon
      • Benefits could be:
          • Built-in connections in the music business
          • People already know your name, quick fame
      • Drawbacks could be:
          • Potential for people to only know you by the name of your father, harder to create your own image
          • Might fall in shadow, people may judge more harshly

Play Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again – Live”

  • What makes Willie Nelson stand out from other country artists you know?
  • What is special about his voice? What about his image (his look)?

Now Play Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold – Live”

  • How is Young’s sound different from Willie’s?
  • There are a couple of minutes in the video before Young starts playing where he is talking to the audience. How does his casual approach affect his image as an artist? Do you think this enhances  or takes away from his appeal?


Now play Neil Young with Promise of the Real’s video: “Almost Always”

  • Which of the three sounds from these artists do you prefer? Do you think the Promise of the Real improved Young’s music?