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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"Swinging Doors" (1966)

It's the song that makes you revere Merle Haggard as a honky-tonk hero and pity the poor women who had to put up with his hard living. Life doesn’t get much better than the one Haggard laid out in "Swinging Doors." He's got it all, from a jukebox to a barstool to a flashing neon sign. "Stop by and see me anytime you want to/ 'Cause I'm always here at home till closing time," he sang. "And thanks to you I'm always here," he added, essentially lifting a middle finger to his beloved. But you also suspected he was one wisecrack — or drink — away from a meltdown. J.R.

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