Okie from Muskogee (song)

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This article is about the song. For the album of the same name, see Okie from Muskogee.
"Okie from Muskogee"
Single by Merle Haggard
from the album Okie from Muskogee
Released September 29, 1969
Format 7"
Recorded July 17, 1969 (studio version)
Genre Country
Length 2:42 (studio version)
3:29 (live version)
Label Capitol 2626
Writer(s) Roy Edward Burris
Merle Haggard
Producer(s) Fuzzy Owen
Merle Haggard singles chronology
"Workin' Man Blues"
(1969)
"Okie from Muskogee"
(1969)
"The Fightin' Side of Me"
(1970)

"Okie from Muskogee" is a song recorded by American country music artist Merle Haggard, which he co-wrote with Roy Edward Burris. "Okie" is a slang name for someone from Oklahoma, and Muskogee is the 11th largest city in the state. The song was released in September 1969 as first single and title track from the album Okie from Muskogee, and became one of the most famous of Haggard's career.

Background[edit]

Haggard told The Boot that he wrote the song after he became disheartened watching Vietnam War protests and incorporated that emotion and viewpoint into song. Haggard says, "When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. Freedom is everything. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause — we don't even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids, that were free, bitching about it. There's something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys." He states that he wrote the song to support the troops.[1]

Critic Kurt Wolff wrote that Haggard always considered what became a redneck anthem to be a spoof, and that today fans — even the hippies that are derided in the lyrics — have taken a liking to the song and find humor in some of the lyrics,[2] In leading to cover versions of the song being recorded by such countercultural acts as the Grateful Dead, The Beach Boys, Phil Ochs, String Cheese Incident and The Melvins.

Written by Haggard and Roy Edward Burris (drummer for Haggard's backing band, The Strangers) during the height of the Vietnam War, "Okie from Muskogee" grew from the two trading one-liners about small-town life,[3] where conservative values were the norm and outsiders with ideals contrary to those ways were unwelcome. Here, the singer reflects on how proud he is to hail from Middle America, where its residents were patriotic, and didn't smoke marijuana, take LSD, wear beads and sandals, burn draft cards or challenge authority.[4]

While viewed as a satire of small-town America and its reaction to the antiwar protests and counterculture seen in America's larger cities, Allmusic writer Bill Janovitz writes that the song also "convincingly (gives) voice to a proud, strait-laced truck-driver type.... (I)n the end, he identifies with the narrator. He does not position the protagonist as angry, reactionary, or judgmental; it is more that the guy, a self-confessed 'square,' is confused by such changes and with a chuckle comes to the conclusion that he and his ilk have the right sort of life for themselves."

Session personnel were James Burton, Roy Nichols and Jerry Reed on guitar; Chuck Berghofer on bass, and Ron Tutt on drums.

Chart performance and popularity[edit]

"Okie from Muskogee" immediately broke in popularity when released in late September 1969. By November 15, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart, where it remained for four weeks. It also became a minor pop hit as well, reaching number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The version of "Okie from Muskogee" that reached No. 1 was the studio recording. After the song became widely popular, a live concert recording was issued and although that version never charted, it became very popular as well. The live version's distinguishing characteristics include an enthusiastic crowd and Merle responding with his own quips at the end of at least two verses. The most popular live version, and the only live version released as a single, was recorded during a Haggard concert in Philadelphia and is from the album entitled: "Merle Haggard: The Fightin' Side of Me", recorded on March 14, 1970. As was noted earlier by other posters here, the song was recorded on a couple of Haggard's other live albums from the era, notably "Okie From Muskogee", released in 1969 and "I Love Dixie Blues", released in 1973. However, these recordings are not the legendary live version the general public is familiar with.

"Okie from Muskogee" — along with the album, Okie From Muskogee — was named the Country Music Association Single and Album of the Year in 1970.[5]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 41
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 3

Cultural references[edit]

  • "Okie from Muskogee" is played in the background in Platoon. When Bunny and Junior are in their barracks, Bunny laments to Junior about the other members of the platoon for smoking marijuana. This is actually an anachronism in that this movie scene takes place in 1967, and the song was not released until 1969.
  • "Okie" features in the documentary film Grass.
  • The song is referenced in the movies An Officer and a Gentleman and Shanghai Knights.
  • "Okie" is mentioned in Stephen King's 2007 novel, Blaze.
  • In Sam Peckinpah's 1978 trucker movie Convoy the scenes showing "Spider Mike" in jail, as the sheriffs play cards the song plays.
  • "Okie from Muskogee" is played in the 1979 movie, "Saint Jack", during a scene with U.S. soldiers on R & R in Singapore, during the Vietnam War.
  • "Okie" was referenced in the second series of British comedy drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. The characters of Oz and Harry sang some of the chorus together after they learned of their mutual appreciation of Haggard's music.
  • Traditional Cajun music bands in Southwest Louisiana play a song called "Cajun From Church Point." The song is sung mostly in Cajun French, but its lyrics and melody are based on "Okie From Muskogee." The song has been recorded by several different Cajun artists including the Balfa Brothers and Eddie LeJeune.
  • New Zealand comedian and musician Jon Gadsby used "Okie from Muskogee" as the basis of a song about the conservative attitudes of small-town rural New Zealand called "Scourer from Mataura".
  • "Okie from Muskogee" was parodied by the Youngbloods in their song "Hippie from Olema" on their 1971 album "Good and Dusty."

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dunham, Nancy (11 October 2010). "Merle Haggard, 'Okie from Muskogee' - Story Behind the Lyrics". The Boot. Retrieved 13 October 2010. 
  2. ^ Wolff, Kurt, "Country Music: The Rough Guide," Rough Guides Ltd., London; Penguin Putnam, New York, distributor. p. 424 (ISBN 1-85828-534-8)
  3. ^ Janovitz.
  4. ^ Malone, Bill, "Country Music U.S.A," 2nd rev. ed. (University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002), p.371.
  5. ^ [1] Country Music Association Awards Database — Merle Haggard.

See also[edit]

Preceded by
"To See My Angel Cry" by Conway Twitty
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

November 15 – December 6, 1969
Succeeded by
"(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again" by Charley Pride