When people talk about what a poet Hank Williams was, or what an outlaw Johnny Cash was or what an amazing piece of Americana Willie Nelson and his music represent, they aren’t talking about those artists. Those notions are what we’ve been told about through marketing campaigns and revisionist history. When they mention the poet, the outlaw or something that is so quintessentially American they are actually talking about Merle Haggard.
He was a great songwriter who captured what a lot of people were feeling at any given moment. He sang songs for the convicts, for the poor people who were struggling to find the American Dream, he spoke up for those who felt threatened by the social upheaval in the sixties and he even spoke out against the Iraq war ten years ago.
Hag was complicated, rough, ornery and angry. Hag was sweet, kind, simple and sentimental. Hag was a man.
He probably meant more to country music and the idea of it than he’ll ever get credit for. Rest in peace.