A 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?