Goodbye To Merle

I arrived home tonight to learn that Merle Haggard had died.  It’s a huge loss to American music, because Merle Haggard was one of the giants of country music, roots music, and the kind of music you just want to listen to when you are sitting on a bar stool.  Coupled with the lost of George Jones three years ago, Haggard’s death means that two of the most genuine voices on the American music scene are no longer with us.

The live performance of one of his greatest songs, Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, that I’ve posted above, is vintage Merle Haggard.  The lyrics are classic, and the Hag’s performance is fun and relaxed.  If you’ve ever been dumped, you know what Merle Haggard is singing about in this song.  (And, because I think the song is great, it’s the only song to have a video performance posted twice on the Webner House blog.)

I’d always liked old, traditional country — not the glorified pop crap that cowboy hat-wearing posers churn out these days — and Merle Haggard and George Jones, among others, really epitomized it.  They were giants, and if you’ve never gotten into their music you’re missing something.  Tonight, on the day of Merle Haggard’s passing, you could find a worse way to spend you time than listening to some of his greatest songs.

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Country Music, The Merle Haggard Way

I love country music.

I’m not talking about the modern stuff that sounds like pop music, even though its sung by some poser wearing a cowboy hat and boots.  No, I’m talking about the country music of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, when singers like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, and Merle Haggard ruled the airwaves.  I’m talking about the music that had that undefinable, unapologetic twang to it, with steel guitars and songs about getting dumped and drinking your troubles away, sung by honest, unsynthesized voices.

One of Merle Haggard’s great songs, Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, is a good example of what I would consider to be a true country song, sung by one of country’s greatest voices (even though the rendition on this You Tube video includes an uncommon horn section).  How can anyone not like this kind of American music — as authentic and deeply rooted in our culture as jazz and blues?