This time last year, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson were at the State Theatre in Minneapolis for a night that legitimately was historic. After all, there aren’t going to be a lot more opportunities to see either one of these grizzled greats in person, let alone both on the same stage. So, yes, it was a night to remember. With a qualifier.
Were it not for his excellent songwriting, Kristofferson, the Rhodes scholar who pushed a broom for a living while trying to break into the music business, would’ve either stayed one of the handsomest janitors in creation or gone on to do something with his education. Because, face it, he can’t carry a tune—not even the ones he wrote—in a bucket. It was fantastic to see the icon in concert. But Haggard, with his rich baritone that’s still lustrous after all these years (since 1956, in fact), was easiest on the ears and truly made beautiful music.
Accordingly, I’m greatly looking forward to enjoying everything about the show when Merle Haggard returns to the State on July 19. And, truth be told, much as I like anything when it’s done well, I’m not particularly all that much of a country music fan: Haggard simply has an inimitable way with a ballad that really has nothing to do with genre, but is all about delivering a song with heart and soul. He’s got plenty of both.
When Merle Haggard steps out on stage, undoubtedly before a packed house that’ll spring to their feet, clapping their hands raw, they’ll be wecolmng a living, breathing American institution. One who’ll will be holding sharing the talent that, along with an amazingly singular performing career, marks him as a landmark songwriter. Consider that, sure, he’s best known for recording “Okie From Muskogee.” But, did you know that his songs have been the repertoire of such diverse stars as George Jones, the Everly Brothers, Joan Baez, David Allan Coe, the Flying Burrito Brothers and, no this isn’t a typo, the Grateful Dead—among a host of others? For those cynics who’re under the misimpression that he’s just an oldies act and those fans at the State simply being loyal to a has-been, he put out a brand new album, I Am What I Am in 2010.
FYI: Probably the only artist of any genre to be granted a governor’s pardon (California’s Ronald Reagan) for past crimes, Haggard was the sole member of the famed trio with Willie Nelson and the late Waylon Jennnings to qualify for the term they took on for the memorable album Country Outlaws: Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings/Merle Haggard. This is your chance to see America’s favorite ex-con-cum-music-hero.
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