A reader writes, "It's worth reading his Wikipedia page, if only so that you feel a smidgen of guilt for tarring as complex a figure as Merle Haggard":
"Okie From Muskogee", 1969's apparent political statement, was actually written as an abjectly humorous character portrait.
Haggard called the song a "documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time." He said later on the Bob Edwards Show that "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."
Actually, Haggard said had only started smoking marijuana when he was 41 years old. He admitted that in 1983 he bought "$2,000 (worth) of cocaine" and to partying for five days afterward, when he says he finally realized his condition and quit for good.
More from the song's Wiki page:
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 take humor in some of the lyrics.
Taking a shot at one of the greatest country singers of all time? Now you've gone too far. Yes, he did do that song. But he's also distanced himself from it repeatedly. I saw him live in Salinas a decade ago and after he sung that song, he received the applause, paused, and then said "You know, when I wrote that song, I was dumber than a rock."
He's also criticized the US war in Iraq. As Wikipedia notes: "In October 2005, Haggard released his album, "Chicago Wind (Merle Haggard album)", to mostly positive reviews. The album contained an anti-Iraq war song titled "America First," in which he laments the nation's economy and faltering infrastructure, applauds its soldiers, and sings, "Let's get out of Iraq, and get back on track."
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