Merle Haggard scored one of his signature songs and a No. 1 hit with the release of “Okie From Muskogee” in 1969. More than 50 years later, “Okie From Muskogee” is still country music’s most famous “marijuana” song.
Of course, the iconic song opens with the simple line: “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.”
Here’s a lil something to toke on for 4/20 Day.
Haggard Makes a Statement
Merle Haggard’s father, Jim Haggard, was the actual Okie from Muskogee. Merle was born in California in 1937 after his family migrated westward from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
However, there is some question regarding Merle’s philosophical intent with “Okie.” While he was heralded in the heartland for the song’s lyrical beat-down of hippies, long hair, marijuana, LSD, draft-card burners, and more, Merle and his drummer Roy Edwards Burris basically wrote the song from the perspective of someone like Jim Haggard.
Keep in mind, Jim Haggard died in 1946 when Merle was only 9 years old.
“It was meant to be from my father’s viewpoint, had he been alive then,” said Merle Haggard to Country Weekly magazine in 2000. “I was trying to think, ‘What if he lived back there in Muskogee and he saw all these things occurring in American cities?’ I wondered what he would say when they spit on the flag. He probably wouldn’t like it . . . It wasn’t necessarily my viewpoint. I tried to climb inside my dad’s mind and back into his character. Dad is the Okie from Muskogee.”
Merle Takes a Toke
Regardless of Merle’s intent, “Okie From Muskogee” was a hit. It became the anthem for those who embraced its conservative philosophy. Released on Sept. 29, 1969, the tune reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on Nov. 15. It stayed at the top for four weeks.
“Okie From Muskogee” was named Single of the Year at the 1970 CMA Awards.
Now, since Merle’s “Muskogee,” country music has rolled out a number of weed-friendly tunes, including Eric Church’s “Smoke a Little Smoke,” Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” and more.
And yes, the unofficial spokesman for marijuana, Willie Nelson, is a habitual offender with songs like “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
Although I stated that “Okie” is country music’s most famous “marijuana” song, I’m willing to hear the case for “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.”
And yeah, Merle and Willie even got together to record “It’s All Going to Pot” on their 2015 collaborative album, Django and Jimmie. They also had a bit of 4/20 fun in the video.