Above: Merle playing in Austin in 2012 (the second time Tracie P and I saw him live.
Man, it just hit me in the gut and hard.
I was just leaving Georgia P and Lila Jane’s preschool where Tracie P, the girls, and I had just said goodbye and I was heading to Bush airport in Houston for my flight to Europe.
I was already teary-eyed when I sat down in my car and checked my phone before driving away.
People were already pinging me: “Merle Haggard, Country Music’s Outlaw Hero, Dies at 79.”
I had been a huge fan for years before I first came to Austin in 2008 and Tracie P and I first started dating.
We saw him perform twice in Texas over the years and his songs are woven into our playlists and lives.
Beyond his unmistakable California twang and his unflagging and unflappable embrace of the American proletariat and the challenges faced by everyday folks in the worst of economic times, he was one of the master songwriters of all time. From the drinking song to the love ballad, from the socially charged canzone to storytelling chanson, his musical legacy leaves with us with archetypes for each of the American country and popular song paradigms.
“Mama Tried,” “California Cotton Fields,” “If We’re Not Back In Love By Monday,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Hungry Eyes”… my playlist for today goes on and on. How much poorer would our lives be without these masterworks of Americana lyricism and melody???!!!
I’m writing this morning on a layerover from the Munich airport and tonight I’ll be having dinner in the heart of Barolo and drinking great Nebbiolo with a group of American wine professionals.
But at some point, I’m going to slip away and find a corner of the restaurant to sit by myself for a shot of “Misery and Gin.”
But here I am again mixing misery and gin
Sittin’ with all my friends and talkin’ to myself
I look like I’m havin’ a good time but any fool can tell
That this honky tonk heaven really makes you feel like hell.
And Tracie P, I can’t wait to get back to Houston for some of your fine fried chicken and some dirty dancin’ to Merle.