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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

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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