Merle Haggard: Merle's World

To understand the universal relevance of Merle Haggard, stand in the audience while he takes the stage. To the left, bikers in leather vests and tattoos are hoisting cans of beer; to the right, toddlers are balancing on their parents’ shoulders. When Haggard goes into one of his dozen household classics, the anti-anti-war anthem “Okie from Muskogee,” and mentions “the hippies out in San Francisco,” two of the people he’s singing about spark a joint, raise their hands and cheer.

But if Haggard resonates with a wide spectrum, his own story is singular, and provides a context for his hard-boiled songs and persona. Fleeing the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, his family landed in the roughneck Bakersfield, CA suburb of Oildale. He grew up tough and was initiated into the outlaw country movement naturally – while in jail. During a three year sentence in San Quentin after a botched bar robbery, he attended the first of Johnny Cash’s legendary prison concerts and became determined to turn his life around to pursue a career in music.

That career began on the whiskey-soaked stages of Bakersfield’s honky-tonks and remains one of the most successful of his generation. Haggard’s hard-driving twang and unvarnished, honest tunes about wrestling life’s demons were a welcome remedy to the rhinestone-studded dandies who dominated early ’70s Nashville. Over the next fifty years, he turned out 38 number-ones, including “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” and won about every accolade in music, including a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime contributions to American culture. -- Nate Cavalieri

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Go Mr. Merle, love your music.

DexterGatlin said...

"Merle Haggard" A country legend!!

cwd51 said...

Thanks for sharing Merle's story and songs here. I grew up in San Francisco in the 60's with A mix of the Beatles, the Beach Boy's, and Jefferson Airplane. I was introduced to Merle's music in the 70's, heard himand his band live at the Sacramento train station in the late 80's, with only a few dozen people standing around to hear him. Listen well and share Merle with your friends to connect to the early roots of rock, pop, and country.

Shane Tobin said...

He was fantastic at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. So glad I got to see both him and Kris Kristopherson perform together. I also really like Merle's last few albums.

He said his best work may be behind him but I have to say what's he's putting out now will still be listened to for many years to come. Thanks for the great interview Magnifier!

Cafdecaf said...

Great Interview. Thanks to both Merle & Google.

Dennis Greenfield said...

Glad to see Merle getting some love from Google Music - and Google Music giving some free music from Merle.

walkersherman said...

Love this guy! Can't beat the greats, and hes not afraid to admit hes still at the heart just a dude. This is what my generation is missing and longing for.

John said...

Yeah, thanks Mr. Haggard, Google, and Magnifier for sharing it with us. That was an interesting video.

Anonymous said...

This man is true country.

Anonymous said...

I am 42 years old and Merle and all of the Greats of his era were as part of my life growing up as peanut butter and jelly. I remember there was no family event Merle and others like Buck Owens, Flatts and Scruggs, Tammi Wynette, Porter Wagner, chrlie Pride, Ronnie Milsap, johnny Cash just to name a few were not on the play list of 45's .. remember those? :-) I personally classify them as Country music while today's artists I classify as New Country. There is no comparison and frankly I do not know any great artist today that can compare to the legends of that era.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Fresno, CA I became a fan of Merle.
His music was always on the edge, and told a story of life.

Les said...

I currently have 14 Merle Haggard albums in my Google Music account, and I'm really glad that my collection of 222 Hag songs is now 224. I saw him opening for Bob Dylan in San Antonio back in 2006. I'm a lucky boy.

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