His songs made us proud to be from where we're from. Not overrated, underappreciated and perhaps even further ahead of his time than originally thoght. R.I.P. Mr. Haggard.
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A man I have seen/heard many (but not nearly enough) times; live on the east coast and travelled to Bakersfield many years ago on NYE to see him 2 nights back to back at Buck Owen's Crystal Palace. Saw him in NY as an opener for Dylan! Too many others to even recall by now. Only other great I have seen more than Mighty Merle is Dylan. I love the man and his music. Sad to hear of his death. Sad.
Right at the time one of his signature songs (Okie From Muskogee) was all over the radio, reflecting the extreme divide in the country between young and old, hip and square, stoned and straight, hippie and redneck, left and right (some things never change), Merle played The Circle Star Theater in San Carlos (just south of San Francisco). A friend and sometimes bandmate of mine went to the show, courtesy of another friend who was working at the company doing the sound that night. They managed to get themselves on Merle's tour bus, and when inside discovered Merle and his band sitting around the table on the bus, a huge pile of coke in the middle of it and them. Merle, like Trump, knew his audience, but wasn't exactly one of them ;-).
Merle was definitely one of the greats. My old band played almost exclusively blues and blues-oriented rock, but we also did his Working Man Blues.
Speaking of Okie from Muskogee, the Youngbloods remade his song as an answer song with new lyrics called Hippie from Olema and Pure Prairie League tweaked him with I'll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle. Here's a verse from "Flat Tire":
Now I heard all them records ya did, makin' fun of us
Long haired kids
And now ya know we don't care what ya think...
Merle, if you're gonna call the world your home
Ya know you're gonna have to get out and get stoned
And it's better with a joint than with a drink...... I think
Merle was way ahead of ya, boys!