Merle Haggard passed away Wednesday on his seventy-ninth birthday. Entertainers don’t get any more genuine than Merle the Pearl. He could talk the talk because he had walked the walk. In and out of trouble, in and out of prison, his own life was the source for much of his material. And he had the voice to make it all seem real to us. Merle was not afraid to bare his emotions or speak his mind, and we believed every single word that came out of his mouth.
I am going to break several of my own rules by making this week’s featured video (a) audio only, (b) not a live performance, (c) a greatest hits compilation and (d) two hours long. Merle is on a very short list of artists who render these sins forgivable. Just listen to these songs. I mean listen to them.
To satisfy my obligation to offer a true video of a live performance, here is a wonderful rendition of “Misery and Gin” from an appearance on Austin City Limits. Note how Haggard’s vocal tone is restrained but expressive and his demeanor exudes a sincerity that is sadly missing from most contemporary singers, and check out his pickin’ from 1:41 to 2:05.
Rest in peace, Merle. You have earned every ounce of peace that heaven allows.