Merle Haggard, one of country music’s most poetic trailblazers of the 20th century, was credited for penning some of the genre’s greatest hits. Songs like “Mama Tried and “The Fightin’ Side of Me” showcased Haggard’s ability to garner fans from all walks of life.
Haggard showcased his talent when he recorded the country music standard, “Okie from Muskogee.” Co-written with Roy Edward Burris in 1969, the song became a huge hit.
It landed at the top of the “Hot Country Songs” chart. It also became a crossover success, claiming the 41st spot on the “Adult Contemporary” chart. While Haggard performed the song numerous times throughout his life, there’s one performance that stands apart.
Recently, footage has resurfaced showing a young Merle Haggard singing the hit song in his early days of his career. In the full-color video, Haggard sits in front of a brick-colored backdrop while his backup singers wear green suits. Haggard wears a blue shirt, adding some contrast to the performance. Instead of opting for his usual guitar, this time, he chose to use a piano.
During the show, Haggard maintained eye contact with the camera, adding a gripping feeling of connection. Even though the performance was decades ago, watching it makes you feel like you’re right there with him. We all know Haggard has been defined for his outlaw style, but this performance exemplified how he could display a gentle side.
Merle Haggard’s Music Continues to Remain Relevant Today
Years may have passed, and Haggard may no longer be with us, yet the timelessness of his music remains. “Okie From Muskogee” became one of his iconic records, along with countless others. A year after its release, the song sold 264,000 copies in a matter of months. Despite the overwhelming success, the song was a politically charged statement that called out those who burned their draft cards during the Vietnam War.
Despite the song’s polarizing nature, Haggard once told a reporter that “Okie from Muskogee” started out as a joke. “We wrote it to be satirical originally, Haggard said. “But then people latched on to it. It really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were.”