The country music singer died today on his 79th birthday. I am not greatly familiar with his music but I loved his big 1969 hit Okie From Muskogee that contrasted supposedly wholesome patriotic small town values with the hippie, anti-war, drug-using behaviors of the coastal cities.
As Patrick Doyle writes:
He had a hit with his signature song, “Okie From Muskogee,” in 1969, which he wrote after becoming frustrated watching hippies protest the Vietnam War. Released three weeks after Woodstock, the song captured the tension between the hippies and the heartland. Its plainspoken pro-military, anti-drug, anti-premarital sex lyrics became an anthem for Americans feeling alienated by the counterculture movement. It stayed at Number One a month.
Haggard was coy as to whether the lyrics were heartfelt or a parody. The words are so funny (Muskogee is described as “a place where even squares can have a ball”) that I cannot believe that they were meant to be taken seriously, and the expressions on his face and that of his band mates during this live performance suggest that they were all in on the joke. He also flubs the last line.
There were rumors that the idea for the song came to him as their tour bus drove through the town of Muskogee while the band was high on marijuana, and that he thought it would be funny to draw such a sharp contrast between caricatures of city and country values. Later in life he advocated for the legalization of marijuana calling it “one of the most fantastic things in the world.”