“Kern River” By Merle Haggard
In 1985, Merle Haggard released his song “Kern River.” He wrote the song and included it on his album Kern River. Haggard was backed up by his band The Strangers. His song reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In addition, the same-titled album reached the No. 8 spot on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Note that “Kern River” is different from Haggard’s last song “Kern River Blues.”
“Kern River Blues” Vs. “Kern River”
Haggard’s last song before he died was “Kern River Blues.” The song was all about Haggard’s memories when leaving Bakersfield.
“His memories of leaving Bakersfield in the late Seventies.”
The song is about the narrator’s experience of losing his girlfriend when she drowned in the Kern River. His song represents the feeling of loss and grief. The song was described by writer Dan Cantwell as,
“A Scary Record”
Emmylou Harris’ Rendition
Emmylou Harris said that if she had to pick an artist that will represent country music she will choose Merle Haggard.
“If you had to pick one artist to represent country music and send it into outer space to let people out there in other galaxies know what you mean by country music, I think you could drop a needle on anything that Merle has ever done and get a pretty good representation.”
In 2008, Harris released her album All I Intended to Be. As a fan of Haggard, she included one of his songs on her album. Harris chose to cover “Kern River” because the song has a beautiful meaning and she experienced a loss of her own. Her recording of the song did not enter the Billboard country chart. However, her album, All I Intended to Be, reached No. 4 on the Top Country Albums Chart and No. 22 on the Billboard 200. In addition, her album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009.
If you know how it feels like to lose someone you love, then you will certainly understand Haggard’s song “Kern River.”