.

Merle Haggard Keeps on Keepin' On

After ailments, country legend back on the road in SoCal

Merle Haggard
Steve Snowden/Getty Images
March 1, 2012 11:00 AM ET

Introducing "Okie from Muskogee" last night at Southern California's Grove of Anaheim, Merle Haggard said he'd heard – wink, wink – that one could procure pot legally in certain spots around his home state. "Right here, right now!" one fan called out, but Haggard demurred. His recent health troubles, including a case of double pneumonia that landed the country legend in a Georgia hospital for 10 days in January, have diminished his willingness (or at least his ability) to partake. It was the only sign of weakness in an hourlong set that otherwise suggested Haggard, 74, will be on the road forever.

Last night's show – the second date of a new U.S. tour that stops tonight in San Diego and stretches though the end of April – felt like an assured overview of the singer's hugely influential career, with plenty of trademark hits ("The Bottle Let Me Down," "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink"), as well as the title track from last year's excellent Working in Tennessee. Supported by his longtime backing band, the Strangers, Haggard performed a touching version of "If We Make It Through December" and earned big laughs with a line about the dependability of a Dodge in "Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver)." Later, he dedicated "The Fightin' Side of Me" to any soldiers in the house and described "Sing Me Back Home" as "one for the ex-convicts." ("Okie from Muskogee" went out to the dealers and the cops who both make a living from the drug trade.)

Though he received a standing ovation from an audience clearly happy to see him in fine fettle, Haggard resisted any kind of grand gesture in Anaheim. Following a handsome take on "If I Could Only Fly" he thanked his fans for their prayers, then got back to the business at hand. When the show was over he shuffled off in the direction of his beloved bus, determined as always to keep on keepin' on.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com