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March 16

How Merle Haggard Changed his Perception in “Okie from Muskogee”

In an interview, Merle Haggard tells an American songwriter that “Okie from Muskogee” was a “character study” and that his 1969 self, was the character. Haggard said that it was the photograph that he took of the way things looked through the eyes of a fool. He was just as dumb as a rock at that time, and most of America was under the same assumptions as he was. As the photo stayed around for 40 years, Merle sang the song with a different attitude onstage. To his belief, if we were to use that song now, it would really serve as a good snapshot of how dumb they were in the past. They had him fooled, too.

He became educated and thought that one of the bigger mistakes politicians do was to get embarrassed when somebody caught them changing their opinion. Furthermore, he admitted that they should have learned the truth since they expressed themselves in the past. Haggard continued on that he learned the truth since he wrote “Okie from Muskogee”. He played it with a different projection and that he shared it had a different meaning. He insisted that he the track was totally different. Finally, Ol’ Merle believed in America then. However, he was not sure if he believes now.

The Proud “Okie from Muskogee”

In another interview, The Music Hall magazine asked Merle to reveal the message of “Okie from Muskogee”. Hag replied that the main message is about pride. He shared that his father was an ‘Okie from Muskogee’. He thought that the track became an anthem for unnoticed and unrecognized people – the silent majority. This song brought them pride. Up until today, he admitted, the song still spoke to conditions going on in the world.

For Village Voice, he told that his father had been called white trash as an Okie. He added by saying the lines: “Listen to that line: ‘I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee.’ Nobody had ever said that before in a song. The main message in Muskogee was pride, and the patriotism was evident.”

Apart from the previously mentioned interviews, Haggard told GQ that he thought his biggest hit probably set his career back about 40 years. He added that of Okie as there were about seventeen hundred ways to take that song.

Having learned how to live with himself, he moved away completely from the idea that the song was a joke. He went on saying, “Okie from Muskogee was how I got into it with the hippies. I thought they were unqualified to judge America. I thought about them looking down their noses at something I cherished very much and it pissed me off. I thought, ‘You sons of bitches. You’ve never been restricted away from this great, wonderful country and yet, here you are in the streets bitching about things and protesting a war that they didn’t know any more about than I did”.


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merle haggard, okie from muskogee


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