Morning Music: Merle Haggard

I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink - Merle HaggardI really wanted to listen to Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues” this morning. But the truth is that Haggard rarely passes up an opportunity to annoy me. He’s a demagogue. And in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was all about pitting the white working man against those other less noble members of society. He’s most explicit in attacking hippies for their drug choices, even while he was privately doing the very same drugs. In “Working Man Blues” he talks about never being on welfare. That’s a common myth that middle class people believe, even while they have their mortgages subsidized by the government.

But no one ever wrote better drinking songs than Merle Haggard. So here is a live performance of “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” with a kick-ass band. I do wish he would lose the hat. He looks stupid in it.

6 thoughts on “Morning Music: Merle Haggard

  1. Stop picking on Merle!

    He’s admitted “Okie From Muskogee” was a mistake, and the Vietnam war was a crime. Here’s his take on the 2000 election and Florida (from “The Onion”):

    O: Did you vote in the last election?

    MH: Yeah, yeah, I did. And I don’t know, I wasn’t happy with the count myself. I thought it was pretty damn obvious that we had a situation there where it made no difference what the American public thought. They intended to be in office, and they are in office. That’s the bottom line, and we’ve been manipulated. I feel really violated as a citizen.

    Haggard pumped out culture-war schlock because that’s what you did if you were a country singer and wanted not to starve. He’s said it was wrong, he hasn’t done that schlock for decades, and he’s taken a financial hit for changing into a better artist.

    No more picking on Merle! . . . ;)

    • Yes sir! I’m a little confused about the quote being from “The Onion.” But I’m glad to hear that Merle has turned around, because I love his work. If you can provide me with a decent interview about this side of him, I’ll be glad to write a mea culpa.

      • Unfortunately, the people at “The Onion” — now “The AV Club” when they deal with artists — have seriously edited the online version of that Haggard interview to remove most of his newer political views.

        In the original — in print as a book called “The Tenacity Of The Cockroach,” which I have in front of me right now — there’s this exchange:

        O: How do you feel about being closely identified with the politics of “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side Of Me” now?

        MH: Oh, I must have been an idiot. It’s documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time, and I mirror that. I always have. It’s pretty easy to lie to me . . . I’ve become self-educated since I wrote that song.

        Screw “The Onion” for taking this out of their web version. But Merle’s alright, not such a bad guy.

        • That’s great! But what is “The Onion”? That’s confusing to me because of, you know, “America’s Finest News Source.”

          • “The Onion” has always had a wing that seriously dealt with artists. It’s now the major side of that company. More people read “AV Club” than “The Onion” anymore, even though “The Onion” was better. “AV Club” is really snarky at times. Their reviews of “Deadwood” are terrific, though, well worth checking out. “AV Club” is really a mixed bag, some good, some awful.

            The Haggard quotes are serious. No BS — he’s come around.

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