Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” Added to the Grammy Hall of Fame
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”
November 29, 2016 @ 11:47 am
I was just going to look up the full files in anticipation of this list. Planing for an hour country tribute on Monday. Good list.
November 29, 2016 @ 1:06 pm
God, if the other nominees include Sonny and Cher and N.W.A. it’d be better if he’d never be inducted at all. the fact that these losers are getting inducted proves that the powers that be have no taste in music whatsoever at no respect for its sentiments or what it’s supposed to stand for.
November 29, 2016 @ 1:51 pm
I’m seeing folks say the same about “Okie From Muskogee.” What people need to understand is the Grammy’s are looking for songs of cultural and historical significance. These aren’t songs that are necessarily the “best,” but say something about the American or human experience. “Okie From Muskogee” is about the most perfect example of this. So is N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton.” In many ways they’re the same exact song, just from a completely different viewpoint.
I’m not saying I’m a hip-hop fan or even a fan of that song. But I understand why it was chosen. When chronicling history, you have to take taste out of the equation.
November 29, 2016 @ 2:06 pm
“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.”
He talks about “Okie From Muskogee.” in this interview by American Songwriter:
November 29, 2016 @ 6:17 pm
And as frequently happens, the songs that have the greatest cultural and historical significance are among the best. This can be said about “Okie From Muskogee”, whichever side of the political fence one is on.
And can we be honest here–Merle being with legends like Elvis, Satchmo, Cab Calloway, and the Beach Boys isn’t exactly loserdom (IMHO).
November 29, 2016 @ 1:07 pm
not to mention Nirvana, didn’t even see them first time. such a disrespect to Merle Haggard
November 29, 2016 @ 2:17 pm
What do Nirvana or NWA have to do with Merle Haggard? They weren’t around when he recorded the song. They’re just as deserving of induction. It’s in no way disrespectful to him.
November 29, 2016 @ 2:44 pm
N.W.A recorded an anarchist song in “Fuck the Police.”
that’s what anarchists think
Anarchist: person who believes or tries to bring about anarchy. an opponent of order, structure, and law.
In other words, the exact antithesis to ‘Okee from Muskogee.”
The fact that Merle’s song is getting inducted alongside the poster child for the exact sort of behavior he was criticizing is an insult to his music, work, and lifestyle.
it’s like inducting Lance Armstrong right next to an honest sportsman like Derek Jeter.
it’s just insulting.
November 29, 2016 @ 2:50 pm
“It was the photograph that I took of the way things looked through the eyes of a fool. I was just as dumb as a rock at about that time, and most of America was under the same assumptions I was.
“As it’s stayed around now for 40 years, I sing the song now with a different attitude onstage. If you use that song now, it’s a really good snapshot of how dumb we were in the past.”
Merle, on “Okie From Muskogee”
November 29, 2016 @ 4:17 pm
None of that matters in the context of the Grammy Hall of Fame. At all. Did you know that Merle was a big pothead towards the end of his life? Even he didn’t take the song as seriously as you are taking it.
December 1, 2016 @ 12:37 am
Hey, if you want to claim insult on behalf of Haggard, go ahead–though I don’t think he designated you for the role. The Grammy Song Hall of Fame is an honor. It’s not the greatest honor–It’s not the Nobel Prize or the Pulitzer Prize or the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it’s not something I’m ever going to win. I’m sure Merle’s family will be happy to claim the award.
November 30, 2016 @ 6:28 am
As a huge fan of Merle, I find it quite honorable for him to be inducted alongside arguably the greatest rock song of a generation.
He’s on a list that includes Bowie, Nirvana, Elvis, Prince, REM, Raitt, etc. Pretty effing respectable for Merle IMO.
November 29, 2016 @ 2:33 pm
WRT to the other country connections/ties that were alluded to at the end of this article, I think that Mike Reid was also the composer of Raitt’s inducted song “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. I believe Mr. Reid might have recorded a song (or seven according to Wikipedia) that rated on Billboard’s country charts as well.
December 1, 2016 @ 10:30 pm
Reid, previously a successful Penn State and NFL defensive lineman wrote the Bonnie Raitt song and a bunch of hits for Ronnie Milsap and other country artists including Milsap’s crossover smash “Stranger In My House. And he scored a #1 hit himself, as an artist, “Walk On Faith,” which managed to break through early in the Garth/Clint/Alan era.
Some coaches and fans thought Reid was a waste when he quit the NFL in his 20’s to focus on music, but he knew what he was doing!
November 29, 2016 @ 4:27 pm
When I was younger, my sister used to play this song so much that I got fed up with it and didn’t listen to it for years. Seriously, though, what a great song and I am happy that we are already witnessing how Merle’s legacy lives on.
November 29, 2016 @ 7:12 pm
Wrote a little something for Merle, just because,
A Merle Kind of Mood
The sunlight thru my window this mornin’
Made me think of what the day might bring
And as I stepped out the door it hit me
I was in a Merle Haggard kind of mood.
I had a “Workin’ Man Blues” and I was
Wonderin’ “Are The Good Times Really Over”
From “The Roots Of My Raisin’ ” I’m
Thankful of “The Way I Am” but when
That “Ramblin’ Fever” comes callin’
I think of “Going Where The Lonely Go”
And then “My Favorite Memory” makes me
“Always Wanting You” cause Honey
“That’s The Way Love Goes”
To “Sing A Sad Song” means “Things
Aren’t Funny Anymore” and the world
Is on “The Fightin’ Side Of Me”
But “Misery And Gin” don’t mix with
“Rainbow Stew” and “Silver Wings”
Won’t “Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star”
Cause “I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall”
I know “Everybody’s Had The Blues”
Sometime and Merle can sure “Sing Me Back Home”
When I’m lookin’ for “A Place To Fall Apart”
Yeah, I’m in a Merle Haggard kind of mood.
by Granville Gary Holt
November 30, 2016 @ 3:14 am
Dion’s ”The Wanderer” was a #1 by Eddie Rabbitt.
November 30, 2016 @ 8:24 am
Most of the songs are ones that I have been singing along to since I was knee high to my daddy. To put one of the Hag’s songs on a list like this one speaks to what a Titan of Music he was. One of his songs is being inducted alongside ones from Louis Armstrong, David Howie and the Beach Boys. To be in the company of these iconsof American Music is high praise indeed.
November 30, 2016 @ 12:43 pm
It’s appalling that Haggard is the only country record on the list for new inductees. I can think of dozens of 1950s/1970s country hits that are far more important in popular music history than a good half of this pop/rock list: “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis, “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” by Flatt & Scruggs, “D-I-v-o-r-c-e” by Tammy Wynette, to name just a few and while Hank, Kitty, Patsy, Dolly, Cash, etc. have songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame they also have other records that deserve this honor as well. Here’s the complete list of inductees; https://www.grammy.org/recording-academy/awards/hall-of-fame
December 1, 2016 @ 12:54 am
It’s not appalling at all. We’re not talking about a country music award. It’s an all-genre award. There are plenty of country records among the inductees, from ET’s “Walking the Floor” to Hank’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to Tammy’s “Stand by Your Man” to Buck’s (not Ringo’s!) “Act Naturally” to Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to a bunch of others. Don’t pay attention to it if you don’t like it, but this is one award that honors country music!