Rant of the Week

Haggard Haggard

I just saw some kind of tribute to Merle Haggard.  Hey, let me get on the bandwagon.

Merle Haggard married Fiona something, some time in the late fifties.  I think she was about 15 at the time.  Haggard spent some time in prison before he was 20, for petty theft, passing bad checks, and so on.  He wasn’t very nice to Fiona.

Merle had an affair with Buck Owen’s wife.  Just one more little hypocrisy in the heartland of America: country singers that claim to hold on to traditional values but actually behave pretty well as badly as anyone else. 

Merle Haggard wrote and sang  “Okie From Muskogee”, which, besides providing comfort and joy to rednecks like George Wallace, helped him wrangle a pardon from California Governor Ronald Reagan-- yes, he of the “tough on crime” reputation.  And an invitation to play at Pat’s birthday at the White House. 

Did Haggard, espousing bedrock American values, serve in the military?   

Have you heard “Okie From Muskogee”?  It has lines like:

We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street…
We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy…
... and I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee

No, of course not.  He's a Republican.  We send other people to die for the cause and then lead the parades, all misty-eyed and such.  It's a bit weird how predictable it all is -- Republicans and conservatives extolling the enduring virtues of patriotism and courage and duty and you can't find a damn one of them that actually served.  All right-- maybe one.  John McCain.   [added 2011-03-05]

Merle split from Bonnie Owens in 1975.  He had a string of affairs.  He did drugs and drank to excess.  He had an affair with Liona Williams-- a backup singer.  But he finally found understanding and encouragement in Theresa Lane, a woman 25 years younger than him.

He neglected his own children, except maybe the ones by Theresa Lane.  Now that he’s a little older and less driven, I guess he finally has a little time to spend with the kids.

In the meantime, he squandered and gambled away all of his money and went bankrupt.

What’s really great is seeing Merle Haggard, long hair and beard, standing in front of a group of well-known country musicians, long hair and beards, accepting induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Does he still sing “and we don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy...”?  Does he say, “nothing personal” when he goes into “Okie”?  Does he even sing it anymore?  Yes, he does, looking a little sheepish as he warbles those bedrock American values.  It’s all about family and true love and being a man and tradition and patriotism.  For everyone else, I guess. 

Clint Black was among those paying tribute.  Rightly so.  He has that same kind of non-descript blandness to his voice that is so characteristic of Haggard’s music.  There’s really not much to it.  Simple, as if simplicity without charm was a virtue.  He's like someone down the street, that you know, and with whom, Lord knows, you might one day have an affair.

Copyright 2001 Bill Van Dyk  All rights reserved.


All Contents Copyright Bill Van Dyk
 2001 All Rights Reserved