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Song Stories

“Okie From Muskogee”

Merle Haggard | 1969

Did Merle Haggard really mean it when he lambasted the Woodstock generation while upholding small-town Southern values? In 1971, he claimed the song’s reactionary stance started out as a joke: While he and his band were driving through the Oklahoma town of the song’s title, he sang out what would become the song’s opening line – “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.” However, in 2009, Haggard told Rolling Stone, “The reason I wrote it is was because I was dumb as a rock.” Then, in further contradiction, he added, “Another reason is it needed to be written.”

Find out what surprised Merle Haggard about Barack Obama when they met.
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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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