The Real Meaning Behind Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee”
via Merle Haggard / youtube
Merle Haggard infused his own life experience into the song that gave him a new trademark towards the end of the 1960s. As he told in a 2010 interview, when he penned “Okie From Muskogee,” he was denouncing violent protesters.
“When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away,” Merle said. “Freedom is everything. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause – we don’t even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids, that were free, bitching about it. There’s something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys.”
He claims he created the song to show his support for the military. “We were in a wonderful time in America, and music was in a wonderful place. America was at its peak, and what the hell did these kids have to complain about? These soldiers were giving up their freedom and lives to make sure others could stay free. I wrote the song to support those soldiers.”
“Okie From Muskogee,” co-written with Roy Edward Burris, was the title tune of the country outlaw’s debut live album with The Strangers in 1969. “Okie” is a slang term for an Oklahoman, and Muskogee (population 40,000) is the state’s 11th biggest city. The song reached No. 1 on the country charts and was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1970. To this day, “Okie From Muskogee” remains one of Haggard’s greatest hits.