Friday, 8 April 2016

A musical tone poem for Merle

It’s time to say goodbye to Merle Haggard, who died Wednesday, April 6 – his 79th birthday. Time to appreciate his talent and his perseverance in the face of profound change.

Merle Haggard
We’re going to try to do that on The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour in unique way, in a show that will be posted Saturday.

Haggard was a man who had a rough start in life, did some hard time, then got out of prison, came up with 38 number one hits, and produced good music right to the end of his days.

He was a gifted musician, a fine singer and a vivid songwriter.

Perhaps surprisingly, I think his touch as a songwriter talent shines particularly brightly on his most famous song, “Okie From Muskogee.” Because it might seem at first like a novelty song, and a divisive one at that.

But was actually a unifying song, one that clean-cut hawks and long-haired doves all sang with equal enthusiasm.

That’s because it was a song of nostalgia for a simpler time, in a period of great societal change.
In the Americana Hour show that debuts Saturday, we’ll take a musical look at the life and times of Merle Haggard.

Not too many words. Just a few of Merle’s songs. And a lot of other music – sort of a musical tone-poem, giving a sense of the different eras through with Haggard lived, worked and thrived.

In the end, he came to grips with the changes. They might not have smoked marijuana in Muskogee, but Merle is reported to have smoked plenty himself over the years.

Merle Haggard
And just last year, he issued an album with his good friend Willie Nelson – an old leftie and pot smoker. The album is called Django and Jimmie, and it was a tribute to jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers, who’s often called the father of country music.

We’ll hear from that Willie and Merle album, as well. It’s a tip of the hat to the people who influenced them, and without whom they would not have become the musicians they were. 

Just as future musicians will owe their careers to the Hag.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Farewell to Merle

Merle Haggard died today, on his 79th birthday.  He'll be missed.
Merle Haggard
The Hag was much more than the caricature of the mindless patriot who wrote Okie From Muskogie. He was a moving songwriter, a fine singer, a superb musician. A man who had 38 number one hits.

A good man who did hard time and turned his life around. And someone who was an integral part of our times, part of the fabric of our culture. Part of our shared consciousness.

And so tomorrow I will be redoing the edition of The Big Fat Wide Americana Hour I had prepared for Saturday release.

Saturday's show won't be all about Merle. But I need to tip my hat to him, to try to show where he fit into the American musical landscape.
Maybe just two songs -- the first and the last. Bookends.

I want to find a way to say thank you. And I want to find a way to say goodbye.