Today I Started Lovin' You Again
Are you listening, Merle Haggard?
by Kelly Ferjutz
I know that was your great song from 19 whenever, and I truly loved it back then. So why haven't you been a steady part of my life in all those years since? Darned if I know. But I'll tell you this much. Now that I've found you, again, you'll always be a steady companion. Always. The days do grow shorter for both of us, (we're the same age) but there won't be another day without your company. I can promise that, thanks to your wonderfully large collection of recorded music.
I know you sing songs written by other people, and while you do them all great justice, they just don't compare to those you wrote yourself. Either part is always great – words or music – but the best are when you did both. They just have that extra something that makes them really special. They were just simply meant for each other.
Frankly, I think you should be the next Poet Laureate of our country. Even without knowing all the words to all your songs, there cannot be anyone in these United States who hasn't experienced at least one of the emotions so eloquently described in your songs. Mr. Haggard, you're nothing but a genius. Pure and simple. You've written about history, about hard times, about loving – it's all universal, and if we don't pay attention, we just do the same dumb stupid things over and over again. Being only human, we just can't seem to help it!
I had the great privilege of seeing you in person – but only once. It was 1974 or maybe 75, and you appeared at the Civic Theatre in Akron, Ohio. That's the one with all the little twinkly lights in the ceiling that look like a wonderful starry night somewhere outdoors in this great country of ours. You were terrific, but there was one numb-nuts in the crowd who thought you should play – right now! – what he most wanted to hear, rather than the way you'd planned out your concert. "Hey, Merle! Do Okie!" Sheesh.
You were a little irritated (and very rightly so) but you didn't let him faze you – you just kept on picking and singing and went through all your big hits – up to that time. In those days such rowdiness in an audience was frowned on, so management hauled him right out of there. If only he'd kept his big mouth shut, he'd have heard his request, right along with the rest of us. Because of course, it was the closer. How on earth would you be able to continue after that one?
I'd surely love to hear you again – in person – sometime soon, but if you were to play all your big hits since then, we'd be there for several days. And that would be okay with me, too.
In the meantime, there are a seemingly endless supply of CD's and MP3's to please my ears and my sensibilities. I know that when I listen to you, I'm never gonna hear words I don't wanna hear from my music. But I will hear truth and passion in every syllable.
And then, there was your book: Sing Me Back Home with Peggy Russell. It takes a lot of guts to just put your whole life out there for God and everybody to read. I don't know if I could do that, and I've only spent a couple of hours in a jail cell. One time, 50+ years ago. I made the mistake of hot-rodding on the street. Duh. No comparison, of course, I do know that, especially because the door was left open since I was the only person in that part of the building. The officer in charge felt so sorry for me he even went out and bought me a hamburger – as a gift! That experience made a huge impression on me, though. I've never had another ticket and was only ever in one accident – not my fault!
I don't know how you made it through your imprisonment, but I'm certainly happy that you did. Our country – the entire world would be a much lesser place without your presence in it.
How did I find my way back to you? Well, I haven't had a turntable in my home for a good many years, but I doggedly held onto my ever-decreasing stack of LPs. Mostly these were classical music – orchestra and opera, which was my first love, and I reviewed concerts and wrote about them for several years. I wandered away from Country. Actually, it wandered away from me, becoming more pop-oriented than it was in your hey-day! You, and George Jones and Waylon Jennings, and of course, Johnny Cash.
Finally, after several months of winnowing, I was down to my last few LP's – CLASSIC country from the late ‘60's to the early ‘70's. I examined them more closely, to see what I'd be giving away, and decided to see what my library might have available on CD's. There were bunches available, and the very first song on the first CD was "Mama Tried." OMG!
Your first words had the most unbelievable effect on me. The hairs on the back of my neck and my arms rose up to salute you. The only other time such a thing has happened in recent years was the appearance on the international operatic scene of the noted German tenor, Jonas Kauffman. His voice is as distinctive in its way as yours is – and causes the same reaction. Slowly, I'm building a collection of your biggest hits on MP3. I think (I hope!) that format will last as long as I will.
Please do keep on playing and singing and I'll keep my part of the bargain. I'll listen to you every day – for the rest of my life. Even until those days when I'll be happy to have a remote so I don't have to get up out of my rockin' chair. Thank you so much!
I think my very favorite of all your songs is "My Runaway Mama," from the Bluegrass Album. It makes me giggle every time I hear it! That's for today. Tomorrow there might be a different one. They're all so good and so entertaining, it's really hard to choose just one.
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