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Haggard Backs the Chicks

Merle attacks media in song, defends Dixies in essay

Merle Haggard will release Haggard Like Never Before, his
first album in two years, on September 30th. The record — the
follow-up to 2001’s Roots, Vol. 1, his tribute to the
classic country of Hank Williams, Hank Thompson and Lefty Frizzell
— finds Haggard returning to the topical wartime song well that he
tapped more than three decades ago.

Haggard’s new cut “That’s the News” takes the media to task for
sensational domestic stories they chose to cover while U.S. forces
were fighting in Iraq. The song echoes Haggard’s previous war-era
indictment, when he chided peaceniks for “runnin’ down our country”
in “Fightin’ Side of Me” more than three decades ago.

“I find it strange that we’re debating the trial of someone in
Modesto [the Laci Petersen murder], as opposed to reporting
necessary news when we have soldiers deployed all over the world,”
Haggard says. “The media pretty much wrote it for me. I’m not
really bashing anybody — I’m just sort of confused. Are we really
being sucked up to for a rating? Or are we being given news that’s
important?”

Haggard was also irked by the nature of the war coverage that
did manage to make the evening news, prompting him to pen
the lines, “Politicians do all the talking/Soldiers pay the
dues/Suddenly the war is over/That’s the news.”

“There’s the footage where the President came on and said it was
over, all but mopping up,” he says. “But all of the sudden it
wasn’t over. They convinced me to the point that I wrote a song
about it. I thought now this song looks stupid or it looks
facetious, one or the other. I don’t think it’s stupid and it’s not
meant to be facetious. It’s meant to create a question, is
hypothetical news what we want to use these valuable stations
for?”

Haggard penned the song six weeks ago and decided to add it to
Haggard Like Never Before, which will be released on his
new label, Hag Records. The country legend, 66, says the title is
just a reflection of his current state. “‘Haggard’ certainly
describes the way I feel,” he says, before joking, “I’m getting on
up there in years, I’m gonna be around forty-nine soon
[laughs].”

Also rubbing Haggard the wrong way of late has been the
polarized patriotism sparked by the Dixie Chicks’ overseas comments
about President Bush and the subsequent outrage. Haggard wrote an
essay on his Web site, in which he admitted to being a Toby Keith
fan, but also defended the Chicks. “They’ve cut such an honest
groove with their career,” he says. “Because they don’t like George
Bush, should we take their records off? I really found that sort of
scary. Are we afraid of criticism? And if so, why? It seems to me,
we’re guilty in this country of doing everything we’ve always
opposed all my life. I’m almost afraid to say something. It got to
the point where my wife said, ‘Be careful what you say.’ Well,
that’s really not the America I’m used to.”

Newswire

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