The death Wednesday of outlaw country star Merle Haggard is bringing new attention to one of his megahits: “Okie from Muskogee,” a 1969 melody reacting to the antiwar movement and hippie culture.

Merle Haggard in 2010. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
On Wikimedia, his true feelings appeared mixed (and he was a regular marijuana smoker after age 41):

“Haggard gave varying statements regarding whether he intended the song as a humorous satire or a serious political statement in support of conservative values. In a 2001 interview, Haggard called the song a ‘documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time.’

“However, he made several other statements suggesting that he meant the song seriously. On the Bob Edwards Show, he said, ‘I wrote it when I recently got out of the joint. I knew what it was like to lose my freedom, and I was getting really mad at these protesters. They didn’t know anything more about the war in Vietnam than I did. I thought how my dad, who was from Oklahoma, would have felt. I felt I knew how those boys fighting in Vietnam felt.'”

But Haggard — who died on his 79th birthday — was more connected to Bakersfield, which claims him as a musical son.

“Many musicians and entertainers were involved in making the Bakersfield Sound a global phenomenon, however none were more well-known than Country Music Hall of Fame members Buck Owens and Merle Haggard,” said a tourism site. “Both artists cut their teeth at the bars and honkytonks around Bakersfield before gaining international prominence.

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