Sing Me Back Home (R.I.P., Hag)

[NOTE:  I set out to write this post yesterday, but I was so damned sad that I couldn’t do it, so I decided to postpone it until tomorrow.  Well, tomorrow is here, and I’m still so goddamned depressed that I don’t want to write it, but if I don’t write it now, I never will, so here goes– I’m gonna’ keep it short and sweet.]

Merle-Haggard

One of the all-time greats, Merle Haggard, died on his 79th birthday yesterday.  The Hag had always been a musical hero of mine (second only to Johnny Cash) and truth be told, there are very few singer/songwriters (country or otherwise) who could hold a candle to him.

Speaking of birthdays, the best birthday present I ever received was for my thirtieth a few years ago.  Merle Haggard happened to be playing a show in Branson, Missouri, of all places, on the day after my birthday, and my brother bought me a ticket.  So he and I (and our respective exes) braved the bullshit of Branson in order to see our musical hero perform.  It was a great show, and I’ll never forget the experience.

Strangely enough, I’ve had a Merle Haggard CD stuck in my car stereo for the last couple of weeks.  Well, not stuck, exactly– I just haven’t felt the need to switch it out with anything else.  I reckon I’m gonna’ have to soon, because it’s a sure bet that I’m gonna’ cry every time I hear “Sing Me Back Home” from this point on.

Nobody could sing a song quite like the Hag, and nobody could write a song quite like him, either.  There are roughly seven-and-a-half billion people on this earth, and not one of them will ever be able to emulate both the pathos in his lyrics and the sincerity in his timbre.  The world lost one of the best its ever seen, and so I’d like to share this live performance of one of my favorite songs, performed roughly the same time I got to see him in concert:

 

The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom,
and I stood up to say good-bye like all the rest.
And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell,
“Let my guitar-playing friend do my request.
Let him sing me back home with a song I used to hear–
make my old memories come alive…
take me away and turn back the years…
sing me back home before I die.”
I recall last Sunday morning a choir from off the streets
came to sing a few old gospel songs.
And I heard him tell the singers,
“There’s a song my mama sang…

could I hear it once before we move along?
Sing me back home, with a song I used to hear,
make my old memories come alive…
take me away and turn back the years…
sing me back home before I die…
sing me back home before I die.”

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