Requiem for an Okie
April 7, 2016 19 Comments
So, Merle Haggard is gone, on his 79th birthday, from pneumonia. From Fox News:
Born outside of Bakersfield, California, in 1937, Haggard, the son of Oklahoma migrants, was raised in a converted railway boxcar, the only home his family could afford. Famous for his prison stint in San Quentin, Haggard said music was his only opportunity out of poverty.
“My decisions have been easy,” he told the Associated Press in 2014. “It was either back in the cotton patch or go to work in the oil fields. … They didn’t compare with music. I was able to make more money in a beer joint when I first started than I was digging ditches.”
The gruff, baritone-voiced singer became known for his classic tunes about drifters, convicts and blue collar workers, including “Workin’ Man Blues.” His tunes celebrated outlaws, underdogs and had an abiding sense of national pride. But he said back in 2014 that after writing some 700 songs, it’s hard to find a subject he hasn’t written about yet. […]
“I’ll tell you what the public likes more than anything,” he told the Boston Globe in 1999. “It’s the most rare commodity in the world — honesty.”
The Byrds, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grateful Dead, Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams and Reba McEntire all covered his songs, while many others paid tribute to him in theirs. In the Dixie Chicks’ “Long Time Gone, which criticizes Nashville trends, the trio crooned: “We listen to the radio to hear what’s cookin’ / But the music ain’t got no soul / Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard.”
And this, of course
Perhaps they are, but we will always remember them, and their bards.