Merle Haggard may be gone, but his music will live on in both in the hearts of country music fans, and in some of the highest institutions in music tasked with recognizing the historical impact of songs and music.
The Grammy Awards have selected 25 songs to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in their latest class, and this year’s inductees are offered with a heavy heart since it includes selections from many notable artists who have passed away in 2016, including Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ The Times,” David Bowie’s “Changes,” and Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee.”
Haggard’s everyman anthem released in 1969 during the height of the counterculture revolution was meant to offer a differing perspective than the one most music of the era represented. The song is considered both iconic and controversial in its message, but what nobody argues is that it encapsulates a mindset in America that existed in 1969, and still does very much today. Merle offered conflicting accounts about what inspired the iconic song throughout his life, from being angry about anti-war protests, to being ironic about a dying mindset.
To be considered for induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a song has to be at least 25 years old—allowing time to judge the merit of the song for it’s cultural and historical significance. Songs that just turned 25, including Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” also made the list.
Other songs with country music ties include Arlo Guthrie’s version of “The City of New Orleans” written by Steve Goodman and recorded by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and many other country artists over the years, as well as The Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Suzie,” Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” re-popularized by The Allman Brothers, and N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” (just kidding about that last one, though it is being inducted).
A full list of the songs selected for the Grammy Hall of Fame:
- Arlo Guthrie – “The City of New Orleans”
- The Beach Boys – “I Get Around”
- Billie Holiday – Lady Sings the Blues
- Blind Willie McTell – “Statesboro Blues”
- Bonnie Raitt – “I Can’t Make Your Love Me”
- Cab Calloway And His Orchestra – “(Hep-Hep!) The Jumpin’ Jive”
- David Bowie – “Changes”
- Deep Purple – “Smoke of the Water”
- Dion – “The Wanderer”
- Elvis Presley – “Jailhouse Rock”
- The Everly Brothers – “Wake Up Little Susie”
- Jackson 5 – “ABC”
- Lalo Schifrin – “Mission-Impossible”
- Lesley Gore – “You Don’t Own Me”
- Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra – “When the Saints Go Marching In”
- Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee
- Mills Brothers – “You Always Hurt the One You Love”
- Mississippi John Hurt – “Stack O’Lee Blues”
- N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton
- Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
- Prince – Sign ‘O’ the Times
- R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”
- Rod Stewart – “Maggie May”
- Sly & The Family Stone – “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
- Sonny & Cher – “I Got You Babe”