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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"White Line Fever" (1969)

Don't let the title mislead you, this stripped-back track — which appeared on the watershed live Okie From Muskogee album — isn't about that demon cocaine but rather the white lines of the highway and the allure and the monotony of the folks who are driven to choose that path. The narrator could be a long-haul trucker, a restless nomad or a weary country superstar looking out at the road rushing under his wheels, the steady tempo and elongated croon mirroring the mesmerizing view of the lines flying by on the pavement. Haggard was often drawn to themes of aging and mortality as a writer and here he was only in his early thirties when he sang "The wrinkles in my forehead/Show the miles I've put behind me/They continue to remind how fast I'm growin' old/Guess I'll die with this fever in my soul." S.R.

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