Another man done gone: Merle Haggard

HaggardCoverMerle Haggard took his leave of this planet today, his 79th birthday, dying of pneumonia. And as I’ve had to do far too many times already this year in the wake of a famous musician’s death, I put on my obit-writer’s hat and got busy putting some remembrance-type content out there.

It was handy to have “Comin’ Right at Ya” co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson’s number to call, since he was a longtime friend and collaborator of Merle’s, and he was quotable as always — see the bottom of this story. I’d also written a few entries a while back for this “30 Essential Songs” list (on “Hungry Eyes,” “The Fightin’ Side of Me” and “Ramblin’ Fever”), and that went online today at Rolling Stone.

Really, though, here’s the best Haggard piece you’ll read today. It’s an excerpt from our very fine American Music Series book on Haggard, 2013’s “The Running Kind” by the great David Cantwell, and this introduction masterfully sets the scene and the story. It’s worth your time. And while you’re giving it a read, dig this Whiskeytown cover of one of Merle’s classics.

ADDENDUM (7/24/2017): More from David Cantwell on Merle.

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Another man done gone: Merle Haggard

  1. Thanks for this wonderful link, David. I love me some Merle. May have to get that book. “Okie” was never my favorite, but I *have* sung along to it on the radio while driving across OK. So glad I got to hear him in person (finally!) in CH last year (or maybe it was the year before?).

  2. dmenconi

    “The Running Kind” is definitely well worth getting. And it was probably 2014 when you met him — that’s the last time he played Chapel Hill, at Memorial Hall (with Tift Merritt opening).

  3. Pingback: Merle Haggard’s fightin’ side, in Rolling Stone | Losering Books

  4. Incredibly insightful to compare Merle not to Tom Joad but to John Ford. Merle never lived in a “canvas-covered cabin in a crowded labor camp,” just as Ford never lived in a cottage in Innisfree, much less in Monument Valley. Both were cultural conservatives and fiercely proud Americans in the way that first or second generations can be. Frankly, these days both are pretty unfashionable.

    LIke Kate, I’m not a huge fan of “Okie” as a song, but I appreciate its impact. And it’s also fascinating the way Merle never told a straight story about the intent of the song. In some tellings, it was a gag, in others he was channeling the spirit of his father, and in another, he was “dumb as a rock” when he wrote it.

    It’s an incredible loss. It’s hard to see how another character like Merle Haggard could emerge.

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