My song today is ‘Okie From Muskogee’. This song was recorded by American country music artist, ‘Merle Haggard and The Strangers’. Haggard co-wrote the song with drummer Roy Edward Burris. "Okie" is a slang name for someone from Oklahoma, and Muskogee is the 11th largest city in the state. The song was released in September 1969 as the first single and title track from the album ‘Okie from Muskogee’.
Haggard told ‘The Boot’ in an interview that he wrote the song after he became disheartened watching Vietnam War protests and incorporated that emotion and viewpoint into song. Haggard says, "When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. Freedom is everything. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause that 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 states that he wrote the song to support the troops. "We were in a wonderful time in America, and the 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." In an interview with ‘American Songwriter’, Haggard called the song a ‘character study’, his 1969 self being the character
'Okie from Muskogee’ immediately broke into popularity when released in late September 1969. By November 15, it reached Number 1 on the ‘Billboard Magazine Hot Country Singles’ chart, where it remained for four weeks. It also became a minor pop hit as well, reaching Number 41 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart.
This song was released one year after I was first married. The song (unlike the protest songs of Bob Dillion and others who were wholly against the Vietnam War), was in support of all those American soldiers who were fighting for their country’s cause. The song also supported all the traditional American values about looking right, being right, and doing right. Haggard found it insupportable to ‘knock the country’s cause’, and hence wrote Okie from Muskogee’ to support his view.
It is not too different in many ways about the two camps that always line up in battle formation against each other and in conflict against the cause of the opposing camp. In Great Britain, there have always been those for and those against ‘this’ and ‘that’.
We can go back to the antagonism between the Romans and Christians : moving through the centuries to the religious conflict between Crown and Church when Henry V111 challenged the supremacy of the Pope: the Civil War between Crown and State between Cromwell’s Roundheads and King Charles 1’s Royalists : the commercial and moral crusade between those merchants who believed in the slave trade and those who protested politically against it: the irreconcilable opponents of worker and master during the Industrial Revolution: the constant fight between master and worker regarding the right of Trade Unions to exist in the workplace: the moral conscience of the soldiers and the conscientious objectors of ‘World Wars One and Two’: the protesters for and against ‘Women’s Suffrage’: the political differences between Labour, Liberal and Conservatory Political Parties and Policies: and present day, those who believe in maintaining the social isolation/ distancing/ lockdown policy of the Government and those who do not!
I suspect that somewhere along the lines that distinguish this range of opposing viewpoints, there will be times when we will find ourselves be in the rebel camp of opinion and other occasions when we will be natural allies of Crown, Parliament and Central Authority.
In short, there will be times in the life of every person when we become ‘Okies from Muskogee’.
Love and peace Bill xxx