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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

 
Walkin' on the fightin' side

by digby


























I've never been totally sure if Merle Haggard (who was actually from California) was being ironic or not. He told different stories about that at different times. But you can be sure that his fans took it deadly seriously at the time.






Go to a Donald Trump rally today and you'll find these sentiments are nearly unchanged. He was singing for most of them before they were born.  It's been nearly 50 years since he wrote those songs. And over 150 since the Southern states seceded, lamenting over the same things. It's as American as it gets.

RIP Merle Haggard. I always liked him in spite of all that. His music is part of the soundtrack to my life.

Update: This piece at Wonkette about Haggard and Nixon is just great:
Pat Nixon’s birthday party at the White House on March 17, 1973? Not merely because it wasn’t really her birthday — she was born March 16, but the Nixons always celebrated it on Saint Patricks’ Day — but because Merle Haggard was 1) a bit out of place in his boots and cowboy hat, while everyone else was wearing tuxedos, and he was 2) — gasp! — a convicted felon whose biggest hit was 3) an anti-hippie protest song. As Rick Perlstein recalls in The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (his excellent follow-up to Nixonland, which should be mandatory reading for everyone), everything felt a little weird, even to Haggard himself, who was invited to play his odes to the common man and patriotic indignation “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me”:
He later said it felt like performing to mannequins. Came the dramatic highlight: a giant American flag rose from the back of the stage. Haggard swung into his law-and-order hit, “Okie from Muskogee.” 
The New York Times observed an incongruity: the president had three days earlier sent his message asking Congress to attack crime “without pity,” but Haggard was a felon, convicted for robbery. The next week the Chicago Tribune ran a query from a reader: “Do you know whether he’s the first ex-convict to perform in the White House?’” 
It spoke to an emerging dilemma: when people thought of the White House, crime was the image coming to mind.
Haggard was always coy about just how straight “Okie From Muskogee” was meant to be taken, but he was happy to perform for Nixon — not just at the White House, but at the Grand Ole Opry in 1974, where Tricky Dick himself stiffly sat at the piano and banged out a couple tunes — those great Country tunes “Happy Birthday” and “My Wild Irish Rose.” Haggard also played the White House for Ronald Reagan in 1982, which was sweet for Haggard since Reagan had pardoned him while he (Haggard) was doing three years in San Quentin for attempted burglary.
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