On This Day: Merle Haggard’s ‘A Place to Fall Apart’ Hits #1 in 1985

by Matthew Wilson

Merle Haggard struck gold with this heartbreaking look at a crumbling relationship. The singer broke audiences’ hearts all the way up to No. 1 on the charts with “A Place to Fall Apart.” On this day in 1985, Haggard had another hit on his hands.

There’s real pain in Haggard’s voice that makes this tune feel raw and authentic. The singer shows his vulnerable side, singing lyrics like “I can’t seem to justify your leavin’ me/ I’m be-wildered as to how it all came down/ I thought everything was fine until your phone call/ The call that turned my world around/ Send me word and tell me why it ended/ I need some final proof to show my heart.

Haggard always had the power with his voice to draw tears and emotion. Perhaps, it’s because many of his songs were autobiographical looks at the singer’s own life. Stretching back to his San Quentin prison days, Haggard was always the real, genuine deal. “A Place to Fall Apart” was no different.

Merle Haggard Wrote About His Ex-Wife

Haggard wrote the song with Willie Nelson and songwriter Freddy Powers about his own recent split. Powers and Nelson first developed the idea during a car ride through Texas. But Haggard gave the song its soul. He had recently broken up with his wife Leona Williams. And the singer was feeling the blues.

He had been writing songs as a way to process his grief over the end of their relationship. While at the Opryland Hotel, he told the songwriter, “I wish that I could write just one more little song to get her off my mind – finalize it.”

He wanted to create a song to tell Leona his feelings. The songwriter suggested that the artist write to Leona all that he wanted to say. Haggard and the songwriter extracted the lyrics for the hit tune from a letter Haggard wrote Leona. His musings on their failed relationship became the tune’s genesis. Rather than sending the letter, Haggard and Powers burnt it at the end of their session.

Haggard partnered with singer Janie Fricke on the tune. The results were another hit for Haggard and a way to move past his relationship. Haggard would marry five times across his life with his last wife being Theresa Ann Lane. The two remained married from 1993 until the singer’s death.