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Walk Tall

If you’ve never read Chris Health’s 2005 GQ profile of Merle Haggard, do yourself a favor and check it out:

“You know, I woke up this morning in a wimpy mood,” he says. “Men don’t like to be wimps. But I have reached the point, it’s really sad to mention, I have reached the point where… They always say you’ll know when it’s time. Speaking of the place in your life when you finally say: Do you want to die on a highway or do you want to die in bed? I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of singing ‘Okie from Muskogee.’ I’m tired of the whole gig. Somewhere around my age, people begin to feel insignificant and small and unnecessary and not so much in demand.” There is plenty of work out there for him, but its attraction is waning. “I guess I’ve come to a point in my life where…I hate to admit fear. I hate to even admit fear’s part of my reasoning. But I have some dementia that’s coming around, and there’s a bit of a nervous tic—I don’t know what that’s about; I guess it’s growing old. And I don’t feel as bulletproof as I should feel…. I’ve traveled all over the world without a seat belt for forty-two years. Forty-three. And I’m a bit of a gambler and have a feel for odds. The odds are really against me.”

…There’s a steel and sadness in his face, a proud combination of force and frailty; whatever the gracious opposite of serenity is, that is what Merle Haggard oozes. He smiles. “There comes a time when you can’t do it anymore. It’s a double-edged sword: if I can manage to get over the wispiness and continue to go, I’ll probably live longer and probably enjoy it. But I’m at that pivot point in my life where I can swing that way and give my last bit of strength to the music of my life, or I can give it to my little family here.” He gestures toward the open kitchen, empty now, but through which his wife and children are constantly flowing, past the post on which their heights over the years have been marked. “And music has supported my little family; my little family knows what music means to me. I am music. Music is me, and I am music. But which one is which? Which one do you favor in the latter moments?”

[Photo Credit: Michael Macor, S.F. Chronicle]

Categories:  1: Featured  Arts and Culture  Music

Tags:  chris heath  gq  merle haggard

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