by Julian Spivey
This was previously published in 2015
Merle Haggard is one of the most legendary country music singers to ever live. The singer-songwriter has recorded 38 No. 1 country hits and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.
Here are five things we love about Merle Haggard:
1. Lived the Life He Sings
Modern country music today seems incredibly fake. Few of the songs actually seem like they’re based in reality with constant songs about tailgates, backroads and tan girls in Daisy Dukes destroying country radio. Country just doesn’t seem country anymore, because it doesn’t seem actually lived in. Merle Haggard lived his songs. Many country legends have had hits about their outlaw ways, but none have lived those outlaw ways like Haggard. His early career was filled with terrific prison songs like “Mama Tried,” “Branded Man” and “Sing Me Back Home” that actually came out of his time incarcerated in San Quentin in California. When Merle sings “I turned 21 in prison” in “Mama Tried” it just isn’t a story, it’s 100 percent true.
2. Speaks His Mind
True outlaws are never afraid to speak their minds and Merle Haggard has done this in song time and time again throughout his long and legendary country music career. Haggard, in fact, has been speaking his mind in his songs ever since his career began with multiple songs taking on the way inmates, like himself, are treated once they are let out of prison in songs like “Branded Man.” He has taken on people not standing up for their country in “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” people burning flags in “Me & Crippled Soldiers,” the needless Iraq War in “America First” and “Where’s All the Freedom” and numerous other subjects over the years. Haggard has made it plainly clear that he will not be silenced on his views and we need more artists like that in this world.
Merle Haggard is very likely the greatest country music songwriter of all-time and yet he never really seems to get the credit he deserves for it. Haggard has recorded an incredible 38 No. 1 hits during his career and many more classics that failed to climb all the way up the music charts, most of which he’s written all by himself. Haggard is known as the “Poet of the Working/Common Man” for his flawless ability to write simplistic and yet beautiful songs that talk of life the way it is. There likely has never been nor will ever be a single songwriter who’s ever written as many country classics as Haggard has.
4. American Hero
Merle Haggard might be 78-years old, but this 2010 Kennedy Center Honoree is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. In fact, this American hero continues to put out some of the best and traditional country music around. Haggard and life-long friend Willie Nelson have a new album coming out together on June 2 called Django & Jimmie, titled in tribute to their personal heroes Django Reinhardt (Willie’s hero) and Jimmie Rodgers (Merle’s hero). The duo has released the first song from that record already, the pro-marijuana anthem “It’s All Going to Pot” that proves these wild and wooly outlaws aren’t anywhere close to hanging it up in their old age.
5. Sense of Humor
Merle Haggard has always seemed so stern and serious in his music that some people might not realize that he has a great sense of humor. He’s known to crack jokes and have a good time on stage during his live shows, but he’s also proven himself in the past to be quite the impressionist. He showed off his great impression skills on an episode of Glen Campbell’s old variety series “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” in the late ‘60s when he absolutely became Buck Owens, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins while doing impressions of those legendary singers.