Video: Merle Haggard

By Brick Wahl

This clip blew my mind.

Lots of time when people ask me about writing prose, I’ll simply tell them to listen to “Kern River”. Merle Haggard was a huge influence on me. Stll is.

Listen to how spare it is, how bare boned. He has pared this thing down to the point that editing out one word mightr bring the he whole ediface crashing down. Listen to how many stories he tells. How much information he imparts, the scenes he describes and how vividly you picture them as you listen.  He does it all so simply, with so few words, a whole short story in a handful of lines.

It is some of the finest use of the English language, and of language itself, I have ever heard. I’ve listened to this song a couple hundred times over the years, and it nails me every time still.

Here he plays it on TV and the damn thing hadden even come out yet. It’s so brand new the words seem to glisten.

 Merle Haggard Sings “Kern River.”

7 thoughts on “Video: Merle Haggard

  1. Good to see Freddy Powers in this vid as well. There is fantastic songwriters edition of Austin City Limits with Freddy, Willie Nelson, and Merle. Freddy has been on the show many times and his 2 CDs are worth checkin’ out. Great jazzy country writer.


  2. I am looking for a DVD or Video of Willie, Freddy and Merle on Austin City Limits, I think. In this one, Merle sings “You Nearly lose your Mind.”

    Anybody have a clue what title–or even if this session had been recorded for release??


  3. Did I really write “hadden even come out yet”? Hadden? That’s a damn typo, a mistake. Sorry Don. I forgot to use spell check. Too late, now it’s a word. Maybe it’ll show up in the OED. Maybe some grammar maven will get outraged. Maybe I ought notta hadden read this.


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