Forty-eight years ago today, Merle Haggard soared to the number one spot on the charts with his song, “I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me.” Even to this day, the tune hits a deep emotional level that it did all those years ago. As Merle’s songs always do.
The song is about a man in prison (or so we think). He sings about thinking of all the people he loves who he hasn’t seen in so long. And he wonders if they ever think of him too. Then he reveals that he’s not in a traditional prison. He’s a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
At the time, there were still two years left in the Vietnam war, so the song hit listeners particularly hard. Haggard sings, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of mama. And my nights are filled with thoughts of sweet Marie. Old friends I ran around with keep on running through my mind. but I just wonder if they ever think of me. I wonder if they know that I’m still living. And still proud to be a part of Uncle Sam. I wonder if they think I died of hunger. In this rotten prison camp in Vietnam.”
The song spent 14 weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart and peaked in the number one spot.
Willie Nelson Sang A Duet With Merle Haggard’s Son in Merle’s Honor
Merle Haggard passed away on his 79th birthday on April 6, 2016. Family, friends, and fellow country musicians mourned the country legend’s passing. One of those musicians was Willie Nelson. To Willie, Merle wasn’t just a fellow performer or collaborator, he was one of Willie’s best friends. Following Merle’s passing, Willie took to Facebook and wrote, “He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him.”
Willie even reached out to Merle Haggard’s son, Ben, and asked him to collaborate on a tribute song for Merle. For Willie’s album, God’s Problem Child, Willie and Ben recorded the song “He Won’t Ever Be Gone.” The emotional tune was written by songwriter Gary Nicholson. During the song, Willie and Ben sing, “And He won’t ever be gone. His songs live on. Ramblin’ fever and the way I am. Blue collar blues for the working man. We’ll be singing it back home from now on. And He won’t ever be gone.”
Willie even released a music video for the song on April 6th, one year after Merle passed away.