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Merle Haggard (born 1937) is a Country Music artist. One of the only country musicians from California, he pioneered the "Bakersfield sound" and was influential in the "outlaw" sound as well.
Haggard was quite the badass early on in his life, including stints in PSI and San Quentin Prison. After working some time with Lefty Frizzell, he actively pursued a music career in the mid-fifties after cleaning up his life. A modest Top 20 hit, "Sing a Sad Song" on the Tally label, brought him to the mainstream for the first time, but it wasn't until he joined Capitol Records' roster in 1965 that the hits started coming. Working with his band, the Strangers, he would chart thirty-eight Number One hits and several more Top Tens throughout his career. Awards aplenty came from the Country Music Association and Grammys, as well as a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2006 and induction into the country music Hall of Fame. He even got pardoned by then-California governor Ronald Reagan in 1972. Starting in the late 1970s, he switched to MCA records, and then to Epic by 1981 and Curb in the early 1990s. Although he never hit the Top 10 again after 1989, he never gave up on recording.
Tropes present in his work:
- Drowning My Sorrows: "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" couldn't possibly fit the bill any better.
- A Good Name For A Country Band: Merle Haggard and the Strangers.
- Protest Song: "Okie from Muskogee," wherein he laments the hippie generation.
- Signature Song: "Okie from Muskogee," "Workin' Man Blues," "Mama Tried," "If We Make It Through December," "Big City," "Pancho and Lefty" (a duet with Willie Nelson).
- Shout-Out: The song "No Show Jones" from his all duet album with George Jones is basically a series of these to (in order of appearance) Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Haggard himself, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, and Tammy Wynette.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Like many of the artists of his generation, the Hag was known for his simple, raw songwriting and production.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "We'll all be drinkin' that free bubble love and eatin' that rainbow stew" from "Rainbow Stew."