Morning Song – Mama Tried
Some mornings the world just pokes you in the eye about your failings. That’s what happened to the crew at the Music Department here at MassCommons World Headquarters when they came in early this morning and found this blunt, no-more-words-needed tonguelashing in their email inboxes:
A song every day for four years and no Merle Haggard?
And now it’s too late. Haggard, country music’s one true outlaw, died yesterday on his 79th birthday.
Merle didn’t turn “twenty-one in prison doing life without parole” as he sang in the largely autobiographical “Mama Tried”, but he came close—turning twenty-one in San Quentin locked up in solitary after a failed escape attempt. Along with a handful of others, he popularized the “Bakersfield Sound” which rescued country music from the increasingly syrupy “Nashville Sound” of the late 1950s just as surely as Chuck Berry, Little Richard and company rescued pop music from crooners like Pat Boone and Andy Williams.
Outsourcing to the incomparable Charlie Pierce for more on what it all means and why we’re all a little poorer today because Merle Haggard will never sing again:
His songs summon a dusty world of dark revenge, righteous and otherwise, and a call for working people to kick back at the people who work to make hard lives even harder. He never sang a dishonest syllable in his life and he never spent a day of his life when he wasn’t the toughest SOB in the room. He was a purely American artist. No other culture or history could have produced a Merle Haggard….