Merle Haggard’s dead.
Most of the obituaries cite Okie from Muskogee as his defining hit. A fast search finds that that song is about as square as it gets.
We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee;
We don’t take no trips on LSD
We don’t burn no draft cards down on Main Street;
We like livin’ right, and bein’ free.
Merle would later contradict the lyrics to his biggest hit and became mired in alcohol and drug problems.
Haggard and third wife Leona Williams divorced in 1983 after five stormy years of marriage and the split, which took Haggard by surprise, served as a license to party for Haggard, who spent much of the next decade becoming mired in alcohol and drug problems. Haggard has often stated that he was in the stages of his own mid-life crisis, or “male menopause,” around this time. In the documentary Learning to Live With Myself, the singer is quoted in an interview from around the time: “Things that you’ve enjoyed for years don’t seem nearly as important, and you’re at war with yourself as to what’s happening. ‘Why don’t I like that anymore? Why do I like this now?’ And finally, I think you actually go through a biological change, you just, you become another…Your body is getting ready to die and your mind doesn’t agree.” By the mid-eighties he was addicted to cocaine but managed to kick the habit.
How do you reconcile that?
How can your biggest hit and the song that is most noted in your legacy be some bullshit anthem that you spend the rest of your life contradicting? Merle is a cautionary tale, really, about the idealism of youth and how your firmly entrenched beliefs when you’re young might end up looking really fucking stupid after you’ve smoked a joint with Willie Nelson.