Dubbed by the Country Music Hall of Fame as the “single most influential singer-songwriter” in the genre’s history (with the exception of Hank Williams), Merle Haggard is known for his versatility. He has a wide range of repertory, making it easy for him to sing just about anything and own any song he covers. And one of those Merle Haggard cover tracks that permanently inked itself in his discography was “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
Johnny Rodriguez originally recorded this song for his 1973 album All I Ever Meant to Do Was Sing. And it was a chart-topping hit that inspired multiple covers by heavyweight names in country music: Lefty Frizzell (who was the song’s co-writer along with the songwriting legend Whitey Shafer), Connie Smith, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Dunn, and Alan Jackson. And among all those, Haggard’s seemed to be the fan-favorite rendition.
Merle Haggard’s Version
Merle Haggard released his cover as the second single and title track of his same-titled 1983 album as a homage to Frizzell, one of his biggest musical influences.
Like the original recording, his version reached the top of the chart, earning him his 30th number-one. Then it spent 21 weeks on the chart – seven weeks longer than Rodriguez’s – and even nabbed the singer a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
This level of recognition for his rendition wasn’t surprising at all. He stayed true to the essence of the original version, celebrating a lasting love and its peacefulness. At the same time, he managed to make it his own with a refreshing take: an electric piano that injected an ‘80s gloss into the song.
Then, in 1999, he dusted off his rendition with a duet with Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jewel. Their version reached number 56 on the country chart.