Merle Haggard: 30 Essential Songs

From the defiance of "The Fightin' Side of Me" to the melancholy of "If We Make It Through December"

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Merle Haggard: 30 Essential Songs

"Okie From Muskogee" (1969)

Was he being sincere or satirical? Probably a bit of both. One of the Hag's most misunderstood songs, written with Strangers drummer Roy Edward Burris, "Okie From Muskogee" has been endlessly debated since its release at the height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Set to pastoral acoustic guitar and featuring some of his most reverent vocals, it waxed romantic about the values of small-town America, where "we don't let our hair grow long and shaggy/like the hippies out in San Francisco do." (Given his open fondness for it now, his anti-marijuana stance is pretty comical in hindsight.) Haggard has said the anthem was his salute to the troops, and he still ends most of his concerts with it. J.R.

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