Upon Merle's passing, I read virtually every writerly tribute -- I guess to find out if anyone "got it" -- got the importance of Merle to people like me, and, frankly, to see how wrong they got it. I'm cutting these guys some slack. They're probably tasked with summarizing the careers of disparate artists, from Paul Kantner to Prince, and who could know them all? Besides, those articles are written for the casual pop culture observant; the people who've maybe "heard of this guy", but don't really know what he's all about.
The thing is, though, don't go throwing around the "ten best" recordings of somebody unless you know what you're talking about, because that's a heavy burden.
I've already nailed down most of the best of Merle in my previous posts. But I'm no ideologue. I can be wrong. I can be shortsighted. After all, I grew up on Merle -- that's a completely different mindset from the guy who writes obituaries for the New York Times. So, I'm willing to bend, and I don't have to bend very far. The songs featured here are good; damn good, but you see, Merle was all about the good. It's a matter of whittling down a fifty-plus year career, and that's nigh impossible.
So, I'll stop prattling and just get to the music.
If We Make It Through December:
Carolyn (with Glen Campbell, like it was meant to be done):
Everybody's Had The Blues* (live, like I remember it):
*a personal favorite
If We're Not Back In Love By Monday:
Footlights (a perennial on the "best of" lists, but probably one of, sadly, my least favorite Merle songs):
I remember saying to my mom, when this song came on the radio, how much I loved it, and she said, "Really? I don't see what's so great about it." I was right, Mom. Sorry.
Misery and Gin:
Merle and Marty Stuart ~ Farmer's Blues:
I wondered where Merle had gone, and then, suddenly, there he was, with Willie:
Honestly, I could go on for miles. There are deep album cuts, cover songs (especially those of Lefty Frizzell), Stranger jams, nuggets that've currently escaped my mind. I've tucked them all safely away inside the creases of my memory even if I haven't included them here, in these four (?) Merle Haggard posts.
I'm still mourning his loss. I guess I always will. I had the chance to see Merle in concert a few times in recent years, but I refused. I stubbornly wanted to remember him on my terms. That was probably dunder-headed. Because now it's too late.
So, I'm going to let Merle end this with a paean to the life both of us longed for. Maybe I'll reach it someday. I know Merle has.
I guess, thank you. Thank you, Merle, for my musical life. And actually for saving my life. I don't know what my young existence would have been if fate hadn't hammered me. I do know I was miserable. Until I found you. That's a heavy burden, but I think you can handle it.
And when you play Misery and Gin for my mom, she might just change her opinion.