Merle Haggard for the Win

merle-haggard_capitol-edit-dlA couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post about the list CMT has been releasing of the 40 artists who have been the most influential to country music. At that time, the organization had just announced its #4 choice, Dolly Parton. I predicted that the final three would be Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, and Hank Williams.

Turns out, I was right about the names but wrong about the order. In the end, it was Elvis at #3, Hank Williams at #2, and Merle Haggard at #1. I am surprised that Hank wasn’t the final list-topper, but I will chalk it up to the fact that he’s been dead for 60 years. It’s hard to get too caught up in exact placements on lists like this one because they’re so crowded with talent and importance.

Also, I like Haggard. He’s been performing consistently for half a century, and in that time he’s helped country music both progress and stay true to its roots. On one hand, he is a true country music fan, recording songs by up-and-coming writers like Iris Dement (back in the ’90s). On the other hand, he also respects his elders, paying tribute to greats such as Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills. (You can download the Rodgers album here, for free).

We haven’t talked about him much in class, but in case you’re interested, here are two of my favorite Haggard songs:

“Mama Tried” topped the country charts in 1968 and is probably Haggard’s signature song. Don’t ask me why he’s performing on a carousel in this video.

Another chart-topper, “If We Make It Through December” (1974) was the song that made me a Haggard fan. Technically, it’s a Christmas song, but I think the story about a dad having to explain to his daughter why he can’t afford to give her a fancy holiday is worth listening to year-round.

Well, what do you think about CMT’s final list? Who was snubbed?


Filed under Bakersfield Sound, Classic Country, Lists, Song Analysis

3 Responses to Merle Haggard for the Win

  1. Jessica Jakobeit

    I think overall it is an accurate list (except Taylor Swift being on there is insane). It is interesting that Merle Haggard is up there because even some people who listen to country music have no clue who he is. Of course my Dad loves him. He actually sent me a list of what he wanted for Christmas and one of the gifts included tickets to see Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in concert. My dad is very old school. He loves those country songs that my brother and I think are too old. But everyone has their preference. The rest of the list seems pretty accurate to me. It is pretty cool that your predictions were right (even if they were out of order).

  2. William Glass

    Even though I don’t want to, I have to agree with the order in the top three. Hank has to be an extremely close second, but Merle Haggard has been much more consistent. I bet if Hank had lived a longer life this list might have been a tad different. I do wish we could have learned a little more about Merle Haggard in class. I’ve heard some of his songs and he seems like an interesting artist. Elvis definitely deserves the number three spot, he has had plenty of influence on this music but in my mind he doesn’t come close to Merle or Hank.

  3. Haha. Will, I figured that you as our resident Alabamian would be up in arms about Hank Williams coming in at #2. You’re right, though, that he’s at a disadvantage for having such a short career.

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