Gone: Merle Haggard

merle rip

My first Merle Haggard record, picked up at a shop in Dinkytown in Minneapolis, way back in the early 1980s was called Serving 190 Proof. I really don’t know why I decided to fork out the five or six bucks for a country and western record but I thank my lucky stars I did.

 

At that point my musical tastes were quite immature. Sure, Johnny Cash was a hero and Willie Nelson was fun, but country music in general was anathema to me. Hoaky music for rednecks.

 

But I read a lot of music reviews and Merle was someone the rock critics consistently praised. Maybe it was the album cover—a hand coloured photo of Merle looking lonely at a bar—that got me to dish out the cash. I can’t recall from this far up the road, but that album became instantly a favourite. It’s remained so for 30+ years.

 

More albums followed and my head and cassette tapes filled with Merle Haggard songs: Big City, Driftwood, Okie from Muskogee, Shopping from Dresses, Poncho and Lefty many of which I’ve included in this mixtape to mark his passing yesterday.

 

Merle’s songwriting is top notch. I have always been drawn more to his mellow side and songs where he seems to be simply reflecting on the wonders and sorrows of the simple life. Merle’s songs are full of nostalgia and hope and a sad resignation to never ending change.   His baritone which has to be one of the smoothest and most expressive natural voices ever gifted to mankind is what consistently delights and enchants me. Be it the rowdy CC Waterback with pal George Jones, the boozy anthem Swinging Doors or the downright classic, Kern River, it is voice that drives the nail into the knotted wood.

 

From little things big things grow, said another fine singer. And from that one LP purchased three and half decades ago, Merle’s place in my musical estimation has steadily risen. I reckon he is one of three singers whose music I consistently and regularly come back to for more inspiration, insight and pleasure. So his passing is a terrible loss.

 

Thanks for everything hoss!

 

Track Listing

01 Mississippi Delta Blues

02 There I’ve Said It Again

03 Crazy Moon

04 I’ll Be a Hero (When I Strike)

05 The Last Letter

06 What Happened

07 You Don’t Have Very Far To Go

08 Truck Driver’s Blues

09 Rainbow Stew

10 Pancho And Lefty

11 Are the Good Times Really Over

12 Going Where The Lonely Go

13 Swinging Doors Strangers

14 Still Water Runs The Deepest

15 Workin’ Man Blues

16 The Fightin’ Side of Me

17 Django and Jimmie

18 The Bottle Let Me Down

19 C.C. Waterback

20 Tulare Dust

21 My Own Kind of Hat

22 I Am What I Am

23 If I Could Only Fly

24 Driftwood

25 Walking the Floor Over You

26 Natural High

27 Irma Jackson

28 Okie from Muskogee

29 Kern River

 

RIP

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