I can’t let the passing of the great Merle Haggard go by without at least a small appreciation. I have been a devoted fan of the great old timers of country music for most of my life (excluding my teenage years when it was unacceptable for a middle-class white boy to listen to country music). Haggard was my soundtrack during my early adulthood and my ascent from a melancholy teenager to a melancholy adult. Whereas my angst was aroused by groups like Pink Floyd in my early teens, Merle took over once I’d settled into the role of “working man” and daily drinker. The emotional deep bruises of lost love of adolescence were being replaced by the scar tissue of actual romantic debacles. Haggard fit the bill perfectly and helped me grieve–not only for the losses of the moment but for the inevitable accumulated losses of a future that grew dimmer. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I would say that “Misery and Gin” is one of the greatest tear in your beer songs ever written, and it comforted me to relate to that imaginary person at the bar “sitting with all my friends and talking to myself.” I’m that guy.
Last night I listened to Back to the Barrooms all the way through two or three times late in the night and remembered how great it was to commiserate with his voice on a lonely night with a glass of gin.