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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Sarah and I were watching a TV profile of Merle Haggard the other night (which among other things confirmed how strongly he was influenced vocally, but also revealed how he was helped, by Lefty Frizzell). At one point Merle told the interviewer he wasn't trying to trade on his time in prison. Odd, then, that he mentions it in almost every sentence and every song. What struck Sarah, though, is how clearly current Merle seems the sartorial style model for Bob Dylan.

As it says at the end of his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, "Haggard’s official website greets you with the branding ‘Haggard: Poet of the Common Man’. The common man, of course, retires; like the common woman, the performer generally doesn’t, and Merle, in his 70s, grey-haired and - well, yes, haggard - keeps on keeping on." Again, just like Bob.

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the death of Long John Baldry (no connection intended). He died in Canada, aged 64.


Blogger jeffen said...

While your point about their shared style seems fair, I'll have to disagree with you about Haggard's prison's songs. Just looking at Wikipedia's list of his 38 #1 country hits you'd be secure in saying that his first five hits trade (to varying degrees) on his time in prison) but that after that the references become rare (see "I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me").

1. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive (1966)
2. Branded Man (1967)
3. Sing Me Back Home (1968)
4. The Legend Of Bonnie And Clyde (1968)
5. Mama Tried (1968)
6. Hungry Eyes (1969)
7. Workin' Man Blues (1969)
8. Okie From Muskogee (1969)
9. The Fightin' Side of Me (1970)
10. Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man) (1971)
11. Carolyn (1971)
12. Grandma Harp (1972)
13. It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad) (1972)
14. I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me (1972)
15. Everybody's Had the Blues (1973)
16. If We Make It Through December (1973)
17. Things Aren't Funny Anymore (1974)
18. Old Man from the Mountain (1974)
19. Kentucky Gambler (1974)
20. Always Wanting You (1975)
21. Movin' On (1975)
22. It's All In The Movies (1975)
23. The Roots Of My Raising (1975)
24. Cherokee Maiden (1976)
25. Bar Room Buddies (with Clint Eastwood) (1980)
26. I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink (1980)
27. My Favorite Memory (1981)
28. Big City (1981)
29. Yesterday's Wine (with George Jones) (1982)
30. Going Where the Lonely Go (1982)
31. You Take Me For Granted (1982)
32. Pancho and Lefty (with] Willie Nelson) (1983)
33. That's The Way Love Goes (1983)
34. Someday When Things Are Good (1984)
35. Let's Chase Each Other Around the Room (1984)
36. A Place to Fall Apart (with Janie Frickie) (1984)
37. Natural High (1985)
38. Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star (1987)

3:15 pm  
Anonymous Jack Evans said...

I just saw Merle and Kris Kristofferson do a show
in March at the Rosemont theatre near Chicago.
Merle had his 17 year old son playing on guitar.
"Playing music for you folks doesn't pay anything,
but the women and the liquor make it all worthwhile."
Hag said that...

8:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually think it's more like Hag is copying Bob D's sartorial style. Bob adopted the cowboy/Zorro/Walt Whitman look about 12-14 years ago.

10:17 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

hi michael
sartorial elegance hasn't been dylan's strongest
"suit", since he peaked in 65.
His penchant for big hats and trousers with stripes down the side, make him look odd.
He should go back to short hair, blue jeans, old work shirts and maybe an acoustic guitar and corduroy cap?

5:03 am  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

I'd have said that Merle, in that picture, looks more like Van the Man or Leonard Cohen than Bob. Old rockers seem to gravitate towards a common style. And, after a certain age, the hat is de rigueur to cover the bald patch.

I'm not sure that I agree with Joe that Bob should go back to the Woody Guthrie look (but he did look good in his later days - before the illness).

8:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superb (I think) performance of Love Sick from Stockholm. Outstanding audio.
Quick before it's gone.
Pat Ford

3:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would have to agree that Michael's comments on Merle Haggard are extremely unfair, although this seems to be related to the generally patronising tone he takes with regard to country and folk singers (especially English ones) in general.

Perhaps a hang over from smug arty hippie elitism...

Especially as Merle has written one of the greatest prison sons ever written in 'Sing Me Back Home' - which Bob has covered..

11:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might be argued also that Haggard has every right to talk about prison - having actually done time - unlike, for example, Bob who wrote 'Walls of Red Wing' without any direct experience of it.

If by taking about it, Merle can change American attitudes to prison & prisoners in general (slim hope, I fear) he would be doing a lot of good...

4:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of prison songs, one of my favourite at the moment is 'Holloway Jail' from the Kink's last great album 'Muswell Hillbillies'.

Its an album that works both as a quick potted history of American popular music and as a satire on the English fascination with it.

it also includes the great line;
"Take me back to those black hills
That I aint never seen'.

By the way, dont know if you have seen this quote from Ray Davies:
“I listen to Bob Dylan’s radio show,” he said. “He plays some great records.

7:56 am  

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