Sing me back home with a song I used to hear
Make all my memories come alive
Take me away and turn back the years
Sing me back home before I die
Merle Haggard was a real American. At its best, his music was folk art, Americana poetry, each song capturing a snapshot of his people’s story. There was nothing phony about Haggard, and his music and songwriting showed what country music can be—honest and authentic, gritty and harsh, soulful and touching. His work was “roots music” before there was a term for it, music that displayed all the pain and joy, the pride and regret, the sins and the virtues of his people and their hardscrabble, Dust Bowl lives. The word artist has become a particularly trite cliché used of every pop entertainer who comes along these days, but in Haggard’s case, such a description was appropriate. Merle Haggard once said that what the public really wanted was the “most rare commodity in the world—honesty,” and that’s what he gave us. “The Hag” was dubbed the “poet of the common man,” a working-class boy who went wrong and found his way back through his music. He was 79 when he passed away of pneumonia in Palo Cedro, California.