Merle Haggard with Willie Nelson – Okie from Muskogee (Music Video)

“Okie from Muskogee” is an American country music song performed by its co-writer, Merle Haggard. Released in September 1969, the song became one of the most famous of his career. Background Haggard told The Boot that he wrote the song after he became disheartened watching Vietnam War protests and incorporated that emotion and viewpoint into […]

“Okie from Muskogee” is an American country music song performed by its co-writer, Merle Haggard. Released in September 1969, the song became one of the most famous of his career.

Background

Haggard told The Boot that he wrote the song after he became disheartened watching Vietnam War protests and incorporated that emotion and viewpoint into song. Haggard says, “When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. Freedom is everything. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause — we don’t even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids, that were free, bitching about it. There’s something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys.” He states that he wrote the song to support the troops.[1]
Critic Kurt Wolff wrote that Haggard always considered what became a redneck anthem to be a spoof, and that today fans — even the hippies that are derided in the lyrics — have taken a liking to the song and find humor in some of the lyrics. In fact, cover versions of the song have been recorded by such countercultural acts as the Grateful Dead, The Beach Boys and Phil Ochs.
Written by Haggard and Roy Edward Burris (drummer for Haggard’s backing band, The Strangers) during the height of the Vietnam War, “Okie from Muskogee” grew from the two trading one-liners about small-town life, where conservative values were the norm and outsiders with ideals contrary to those ways were unwelcome. Here, the singer reflects on how proud he is to hail from Middle America, where its residents were patriotic, and didn’t smoke marijuana, take LSD, wear beads and sandals, burn draft cards or challenge authority.
While viewed as a satire of small-town America and its reaction to the anti-war protests and counterculture seen in America’s larger cities, Allmusic writer Bill Janovitz writes that the song also “convincingly (gives) voice to a proud, straight-laced truck-driver type. … (I)n the end, he identifies with the narrator. He does not position the protagonist as angry, reactionary, or judgmental; it is more that the guy, a self-confessed ‘square,’ is confused by such changes and with a chuckle comes to the conclusion that he and his ilk have the right sort of life for themselves.”
Session personnel were James Burton, Roy Nichols and Jerry Reed on guitar; Chuck Berghofer on bass, and Ron Tutt on drums.
[edit]Chart performance and popularity

“Okie from Muskogee” immediately broke in popularity when released in late September 1969. By November 15, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart, where it remained for four weeks. It also became a minor pop hit as well, reaching number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The version of “Okie from Muskogee” that reached No. 1 was the studio recording. After the song became widely popular, a live concert recording was issued and although that version never charted, it became very popular as well. The live version’s distinguishing characteristics include a raucous crowd clapping and singing along with the chorus, and a voice yelling out, “Tell it like it is!” after the first verse. The live version was recorded during a Haggard concert in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
“Okie from Muskogee” — along with the album, Okie from Muskogee — was named the Country Music Association Single of the Year in 1970.



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