On This Day: Merle Haggard’s ‘That’s the Way Love Goes’ Hits #1 in 1984

by Katie Maloney

Thirty-seven years ago today, Merle Haggard’s “That’s The Way Love Goes” soared to the number one spot on the charts.

However, he wasn’t the first country star to top the charts with the song. In fact, Johnny Rodriguez released the song in 1973 and it became his third number one song in a row. Haggard had wanted to record the song before Rodriguez but, at the time, he didn’t have any room on his record for another song. So, Rodriguez snatched it up for his record. However, Haggard never forgot about the song. He recorded several different versions of the song throughout the years before recording his final version in1984.

Haggard first heard the song after attending a “guitar pull” in Nashville. Guitar pulls consist of a group of songwriters sitting in a circle, passing around a guitar, and playing any new songs they’ve written. Songwriter Lefty Frizzell played his latest song “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and Merle Haggard was sold right there.

During the song, Haggard sings “I’ve spent most all my life searching for that four-leafed clover. Yet you ran with me, chasing my rainbows. And honey I love you, too. That’s the way love goes.” The song spent 21 weeks on the chart and peaked in the number one spot.

Merle Haggard’s “That’s The Way Love Goes”

Country Icon Merle Haggard Had A Soft Side

You can’t sing a love song like “That’s The Way Love Goes,” without having a soft side. And despite his gruff appearance and country outlaw reputation, Merle had a gentle side. In fact, he even dedicated a song to his mother during a concert. His mother was sitting in the front row of one of his concerts. So, Merle took advantage of the time he had and dedicated his song, “Mama Tried” to her. Before beginning the song, he said, “Are you ready for your song, mama?” As soon as he started playing, she smiled.

After the song, Merle asks his mother to stand up and take a bow. When she does, the crowd gives her a standing ovation. Then, in true Merle Haggard fashion, he thanks his mother for her contributions to his career with a joke. “She’s to blame for this whole evening,” he says before continuing with the show.

Merle Haggard sings a song to his mother during a concert.