The late Merle Haggard is for many the greatest ever singer in American country music history, with a style and repertoire recognised on a global scale.
The celebrated ‘Okie’, who died on April 6, 2016 aged 79, influenced and mentored a legion of Nashville performers with his gritty working man prose and portrayal of real life experience that took him from a spell in San Quentin prison to the pinnacle of entertainment.
The Haggard musical factor was recently brought to the floor of the House of Representatives (Congress) in Washington with a motion by a California Republican member, who enthused about how honoured he was to pay homage to a man who brought Merle’s home town of Bakersfield in the West coast state to world acclaim.
A motion from Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy was voted unanimously to name Bakersfield post office, located at 1730 18th St, after Merle. Mr McCarthy said the underlying reason was to evoke the name and memory of an iconic figure in American culture at the seat of power, and pay tribute to the working people Merle Haggard represented so well in song.
The Congressman said: “You look back on American history, you see figures standing tall who spoke for everyday working man. Merle Haggard was one who knew America instinctively, for he lived an American life. It wasn’t a life for the movies, it was more compelling, because it was all real. He was the acknowledged poet of the common man.
“Merle Haggard didn’t have it easy in the ‘Depression’ years, his family moved West, and he grew up with little means, living with past mistakes and regrets. So he sang Branded Man of prison stigma; he sang in Working Man Blues of the grind of doing his duty to family; he sang of his roots; not of power or wealth, or status, but of pride of being an ‘Okie from Muskogee’ — a place of leather boots, football and Old Glory. He found success, and, importantly, redemption in music he shared with his country. The Bakersfield Sound changed country music and it’s testament to Merle Haggard’s talent.”