He is remembered for “Okie from Muskogee,” a reactionary song which I happen to like very much. He was an unashamed American patriot.
But I’m especially fond of his part in “Pancho and Lefty” with Willie Nelson.
And I appreciated his cover of Woody Guthrie’s angry, class-conscious “Jesus Christ”– where he left no doubt whose side he was on.
Update: Stuart Elliot wrote at New Appeal to Reason:
After his tremendous hit “Okie from Muskogee” which was released in September 1969, spent 4 weeks as Number One on the Top Country list, and named the Country Music Association Single (and album) of the Year in 1970, Merle Haggard wanted a very different song to be his next single, instead of “Fighting Side of Me,” an even more jingoistic song.
The record Haggard wanted to release was “Irma Jackson,” a song he had penned about an interracial romance. Capital Records, Haggard’s label,didn’t like the song and thought it would alienate his fans. Finally, it was included on Haggard’s 1972 album Let Me Tell You About a Song.
In 1970, “Irma Jackson” was covered by Tony Booth as his first single on MGM. It reached Number 67 on the country charts.