50 Years Ago: Merle Haggard Hits No. 1 With ‘The Fightin’ Side of Me’
Fifty years ago today (March 14, 1970), Merle Haggard scored his ninth No. 1 hit with his single "The Fightin' Side of Me." The song comes from his live album of the same name.
Haggard wrote "The Fightin' Side of Me" in response to the military action in Vietnam: "Runnin' down the way of life / Our fightin' men have fought and died to keep," he sings in the tune. "If you don't love it, leave it / Let this song I'm singin' be a warnin' / If you're runnin' down my country, man / You're walkin' on the fightin' side of me."
"The Fightin' Side of Me" stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks and became one of the biggest songs of Haggard's career. But while the California native took a strong stand in support of conservative politics at the time, his beliefs changed over the years: The Country Music Hall of Fame member, who wrote a song called "Hillary" in support of Hillary Clinton's run for president in 2008, said in more recent years that he wanted to stay far away from politics.
“I’ve got to be honest. I met President Obama, and he was a nice fellow, but I’m not going to vote for him, and I’m not going to vote for Romney. So, that leaves me without many options,” Haggard said in 2010. “I don’t see much that I like in either of them. It’s a tough world, and I don’t think either of them is capable of representing this country right now.”
In 2016, ahead of the presidential election and when asked about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Haggard admitted that the business mogul's non-political background worried him.
"I don’t think he understands the way things work in Washington ... I don’t think he realizes he can’t just tell somebody to do something and have it done, you know,” Haggard said. “I think he’s dealing from a strange deck.”
The "Okie From Muskogee" singer said in 2012 that he was not very hopeful about the future of the country he once sang about so proudly.
"The home front, it is kind of fiddling while Rome burns," he told CNN. "We are in trouble economically. I don't think we can blame it all on one black man. I think we spent 50 years getting ourselves in trouble, and it may take a long time to get ourselves out of it. It is going to take more years than I got left."
Haggard died on April 6, 2016, his 79th birthday.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
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