Our new playlist of the best new Americana we’ve heard over the last month is out later today exclusively for AUK supporters including new tracks by The Delines, Anais Mitchell and Judy Collins among others, and as always, we have a great exclusive giveaway for our supporters, “The Hag”, the definitive biography of country legend Merle Haggard, by the bestselling biographer Marc Eliot.
The book describes the extraordinary life of Haggard, augmented by deep secondary research, sharp detail, and ample never-been-told anecdotal material that Eliot is known for, and enriched and deepened by over 100 new and far-ranging interviews. He had unprecedented access to Dwight Yoakum; Marty Stuart; Merle’s best friend Frank Mull; several members of Merle’s band ‘the Strangers;’ and the legendary Fuzzy Owens, who discovered Merle and was the first to record him.
With his ample songbook, unique singing voice, and brilliant phrasing that illuminated his uncompromising commitment to individual freedom, cut with the monkey of personal despair on his back and a chip the size of Monument Valley on his shoulder, Merle’s music and his extraordinary charisma helped change the look, the sound, and the fury of American music. And his influence is long and varied: He directly influenced The Rolling Stones (whom he eventually opened for) as Keith Richards fell in love with his sound, something Richards had been searching for, out of which came ‘Wild Horses,’ ‘Dead Flowers,’ and many other Stones’ songs. And countless others have recorded Merle, including Phoebe Bridgers covering ‘If We Make It Through December.’
The book celebrates the accomplishments and explores the singer’s infamous dark side: the self-created turmoil that expressed itself through drugs, women, booze, and betrayal. His story is at once heroic, triumphant, and tragic, with emotional highs and lows – five marriages, wealth, fame, poverty, and addiction – that he rode up until his death in 2016.
The Hag is the definitive account of one of the most original, influential, and important artists that puts Merle Haggard into perspective as an American voice as culturally relevant as Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Jimmie Rogers, and a poet as important as Robert Frost. It will speak to readers of country music and rock biographies alike, including a punk audience who loved his rebellious ways and were responsible for bringing him back from oblivion.
In our review of the book we described Haggard as “a towering figure in American roots music and anyone who is interested in Americana would gain valuable insight into one of the genre’s most important figures from reading Marc Eliot’s fine biography”. You can buy a copy in the UK from Waterstones here and other well known stores, some not as nice.
You can become an AUK supporter for just £2 a month here.
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