Merle Haggard has been a star in country music since his debut in the mid ’60s. He’s had one of the most successful and sustaining careers in country music history. Haggard is an idol for many, having an impact on generations of country artists including the artists of today. Miranda Lambert was influenced by Merle Haggard.
Now, after beating lung cancer and back on the road at age 73 The Hag is still slinging out insight for anyone that will listen.
Merle Haggard Interview
Merle spoke with The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy recently…
In most cases –- 99% of the time — the subject matter is so shallow. Should you write something that would touch a nerve, that would be the first thing the big programmer jerks [off the air]. He don’t want anything that’s going to cause somebody to look up from their computer and bitch. [Someone at a radio station] told me that. He said, we don’t want them crying in their beer. That eliminates a lot of emotion, which is the beginning of the country song, I thought.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Merle laid his feelings out on the line about the current state of country music. Merle believes – correctly in my opinion – that country music is about the emotions we feel each day. And some of those emotions will cause people to feel bad, angry, resentful and many other feelings that country radio needs. There are a lot of great songs on radio today, but there is always room for deeper emotion as Haggard refers to.
Maybe it seems that way to everybody and to every time period. But it seems to me we peaked somewhere around 1975. It was still a two-lane country. It was more localized. There wasn’t an identical situation on every commercial street, such as a Wendy burger and McDonald and a Taco Bell and a BP. Individuality still was in play. Radio stations got their request from a local audience. I don’t know what it did to film — I’m not much involved with it — but it sure changed music when you couldn’t call the radio station and say can we please hear so and so.
Check out the entire interview: Merle Haggard on America: ‘We Peaked Somewhere Around 1975′
Haggard again gives some great insight here. The local economy was replaced in the latter part of the 20th century for a more generalized nation. Everything became the same as Merle says. Rather than the rugged individualism of Americans everybody was put into a segment.
The good news is there seems to be some resentment toward the generalization of everything. After the recent economic misery in the US there has bee a renaissance of sorts in a way that has people appreciating their individuality more. Everybody wants to be part of something, but everybody also wants to be recognized as an original, as their own person.
Merle Haggard is an American original. He is living proof that the USA is rooted on the individualism of it’s citizens. Don’t put people into segments. Live life your own way. Respect others and their property and tolerate their decisions. Have faith that people can make decisions in their on interest.
Haggard is still busy making music and touring.
I hope I get to see him before he finally shuts things down.