B-sides: Merle Haggard on Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin, Richard Nixon, Ralph Nader
In Sunday's Washington Post, Kennedy Center Honoree Merle Haggard speaks candidly about the hardships of the road and his inability to settle down at the age of 73. In addition to breaking news of the second pardon Haggard received from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday, Click Track has gathered up extra interview snippets -- Haggard's thoughts on former presidents, third party politics, a bearded super-producer he doesn't understand and his ever changing fan base.
On his fans: Interestingly enough, I think they’re all dead. There are new fans I haven’t met and there are old friends that have died. It’s a strange feeling to lose fans. They turn to friends and actual acquaintances. It’s like this gigantic family and you experience all the dogs and all the deaths.
On Johnny Cash: I spent very little time with him in my life, but it was always... interesting. I was just as big a fan of any fan he had. And he was a fan of mine. His family, his whole family... he brought them to my show in Arkansas one time… Cash said “You’re number [expletive] one in our house.”
On Cash's collaborations with producer Rick Rubin: I really don’t understand it. I know what Rick Rubin does and I know who he is. But I'm not sure why they give him credit. He didn’t do any good. Try and change Cash? That’s a foolish thing to attempt. They mention him and they mention Cash but the thing they forget to mention is the song.
On meeting Richard Nixon at the White House: The intelligence of Nixon was impressive. He was able to carry on a conversation with me and introduce me to about three other dignitaries and their wives, and tell me what their kids names were. He knew all that. And at the same time, tell me a story about how he was in college when I was in prison, and host the whole evening with all these pots on fire.
On third party politics in America: Explain the Tea Party to me and I’ll give you an answer. What is the Tea Party? ...I don’t know. There’s been an effort to have a third party ever since I've been alive and it’s always [thwarted] fast. But we’ve never had a country in quite the shape we’re in, so you never know. It might be time for a third party. What’s the other guy? Everybody else laughs at him. But he’s pretty damn smart, Nader.
On songwriting: I don’t get a pen and piece of paper and set down and say, 'I'm going to write a song.' It never works. You gotta look for the pencil, look for the pad or call someone quick because you’re gonna lose it. You’re keeping that melody going on one side of your brain and remembering the right lyrics until you get it down. Sometimes you lose it.
On why it's harder to write songs at 73: To find a really fresh subject that hasn’t been walked on is hard. So that slows me down.
On why he hasn't written about his illness: It becomes pitiful real quick.
On rock-n-roll's influence on him: I was as much interested in Chuck Berry as I was Lefty Frizzell. In the middle part of my life, I worked nightclubs and the variety of music we had to provide had to take in all of that – the different genres. Rock? Hell, we’d have to do old classics. And pop songs and rock songs... [all] to some degree of excellence or we’d be fired.
On how he'd like to be remembered: I wanna be remembered as a guy like Ernest Tubb – somebody that people liked who wrote songs and the songs are still around. I want them songs to live.
| December 4, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories: B-sides | Tags: Merle Haggard
Save & Share: Previous: Be specific: An instant interview with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox
Next: B-sides: Paul McCartney on winning prizes and supporting the president