Okie from Muskogie

It is probably heresy for an arts advocate to admit it,  but I had the best time last week at a rip roaring, foot-stomping Merle Haggard concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The truth is that I love a good ole “who dun me wrong song” and the 75-year-old legendary country singer and former prison inmate did not disappoint.  The Hag’s style is classy and subdued, but not his audience. They hollered, whistled and sang along boisterously to “Okie from Muskogie,” “Mama Tried” and “In America.”  It was a concert hall full of ordinary people showing their devotion to this hero of the ordinary guy.

Haggard has been called the outlaw of country music, probably due to his years of rebellious behavior, stints in and out of reform school and a stretch in San Quentin.  His musical artistry with the guitar and fiddle, his blend of jazz, rock, blues and folk, and his taste for freedom helped him turn his life around, eventually landing in the Country Music Hall of Fame. What people, myself included, love about the guy is the simplicity of his message.  “If We Make It Through December” is a narrative of the working man’s struggle to make ends meet, particularly through the holidays; In “Okie” during the Vietnam sixties, he stands up for the plain folks who don’t smoke marijuana and are proud to wave the American flag on Main Street; and “Mama Tried,” an apology to his hard-working Mom who tried to steer him on the right path.

Not surprising, there’s a large following in woodsy Westchester who love the down home sound and have found their way to the Tarrytown Music Hall to hear it at this sold out concert. So if you want to know what I said that night to Merle Haggard and the Tarrytown Music Hall…it was…”Today I Started Loving You Again.”

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