Friday Five: Merle Haggard
The great Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Haggard turns 75 today. Amazingly, he’s had four unique career musical storylines. He got his start with The Strangers playing the Bakersfield Sound that he and Buck Owens would make so unique. The Hag then got his major-label start as one of the major Nashville Sound players back in the early and mid sixties. When the outlaw movement started in the 1970s, Haggard was front and center along with pals Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. As he’s reached his AARP years, he’s continued his critical success with a series of well-received independent varied projects. Through it all, Merle Haggard has been the country voice of a generation– actually, the country voice of several generations. What are your favorite Hag songs?
5. “If We Make It Through December”
Released on a Christmas album of the same name, this single spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard country charts for four weeks in late December 1973 and into January 1974.
4. Workin’ Man Blues
This little 1969 #1 gem could epitomize Haggard better than any other song. When Haggard was released from San Quentin, he was literally a ditch-digger before his music career would take off. Not too many gigs could make you bluer than that.
3. “Mama Tried”
Listen to this Haggard rap sheet: arrested and sentenced to prison for three years for an attempted robbery on a tavern. Ran a gambling racket from his jail cell. Nearly escaped with another inmate nicknamed “Rabbit.” Maybe Mama should have tried harder.
2. “Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver)”
Are we rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell? With no kind of chance for the flag or the Liberty Bell. Wish a Ford and a Chevy, could still last ten years, like they should. Is the best of the free life behind us now? Are the good times really over for good? This was released back in 1982. It reminds that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
1. “Okie From Muskogee”
Haggard explains the inspiration behind the song: “When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. Freedom is everything. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause- we don’t even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids that were free, bitching about it. There’s something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys.”
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