On This Day: Merle Haggard’s ‘Fighting Side of Me’ Soars to No. 1 in 1970

by Emily Morgan

Over half a century ago, country outlaw legend Merle Haggard’s unapologetic anthem, “The Fighting Side of Me”, hit the top of the charts. 

His risky decision to release a song that displayed his sense of patriotism when the U.S. was at odds with each other would pay off for the outlaw. Even though counter-culture had penetrated its anti-war narrative into American life, Haggard stayed loyal to roots and beliefs. As a result, his fans would offer him the same loyalty, and the song hit the top of the country music charts on Mar. 14, 1970. 

“The Fighting Side of Me” became Haggard’s ninth No. 1 hit which came off his live album of the same name. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, it’s Haggard’s in-your-face take on America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. 

“Runnin’ down the way of life 
Our fightin’ men have fought and died to keep
If you don’t love it, leave it 
Let this song I’m singin’ be a warnin’ 
If you’re runnin’ down my country, man
You’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.”

The Cultural Impact Of Merle Haggard’s ‘The Fightin’ Side Of Me’

Despite its controversial nature, “The Fightin’ Side of Me” stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks. Today, it’s known as one of Haggard’s biggest hits. Fifty years after its initial release, the song’s powerful, prideful tone remains relevant to this day.

Haggard may have left us, but his lyrics have left their mark on country music and American culture for generations. 

“If I had to take my choice I’d rather write a song that people may not agree with than one that they never hear at all,” Haggard said at the time. “You’ve got to make people turn their heads and listen closer to you and maybe say to themselves,’ What did he say?'”

Love him or hate him, it’s an undeniable fact that Haggard loved his country above all else. In “The Fighting Side of Me,” Merle Haggard transforms the general support of our troops and turns it into an unstoppable passion for defending the freedom “our fightin’ men have fought and died to keep.” 

“The Fighting Side of Me” transformed Merle Haggard’s career while changing Nashville’s commentary on war, making him a trailblazer in outlaw country and inspiring future acts like the Charlie Daniels Band.