A Collection of Merle Haggard Favorites

Merle Haggard passing away isn’t only a huge loss because of his legacy. It’s a huge loss because he was still a vital artist making new, good music that added to that legacy.

Growing up as the son of two country music fans, my exposure to the genre was limited by their tastes. So even though I was exposed to many country artists that were active during Haggard’s decades of hitmaking, he wasn’t one that made the rotation during those long car rides. I heard a lot of Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, and Ray Price. I had to discover Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, and Merle Haggard on my own.

Merle HaggardAnd it took me a long time to really discover Haggard. Until the digital music boom, I didn’t have access to his rich catalog. But by the time I’d heard enough, I’d heard more than enough to know that he was a singer and songwriter without peer.  An argument could be made that George Jones was a better singer, or Willie Nelson a better songwriter. I wouldn’t make that argument, but it could certainly be made. But you just can’t get away with arguing that either man exceeded Haggard as both a singer and a songwriter.

Haggard was such an amazing songwriter that my favorite work of his isn’t even a recorded piece of music. It’s a book that collects his lyrics: Merle Haggard  – Poet of the Common Man.

Organized by theme, the book closes with the final entry in the Spirit section:

Don’t Give Up On Me

Lord, don’t give up on me
I’ll do right someday
Lord, don’t tune me out
Don’t turn away
I’m just a wandering
Pilgrim all alone
And Lord, I’m only halfway home

Wait just a little longer
I need some time
Make me just a little stronger
So I can climb
It’s a long way up from the very bottom
To heaven’s dome
And Lord, I’m only halfway home

Haggard’s made it all the way home now, but here on Earth, his music will live on.

Here are some of my favorites from Merle Haggard.

“Branded Man” (1967)

“I Can’t Be Myself” (1971)

“Carolyn” (1971)

“If We Make it Through December” (1974)

“Things Aren’t Funny Anymore” (1974)

“A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today” (1977)

“I’m Always on a Mountain When I Fall” (1978)

“Got Lonely Too Early This Morning” (1979)

“I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” (1980)

“Misery and Gin” (1980)

“Our Paths May Never Cross” (1980)

“That’s the Way Love Goes” (1985)

“In My Next Life” (1994)

“No Time to Cry” (1996)

“Wishing All These Old Things Were New” (2000)

“I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” (2005)

“I’ve Seen it Go Away” (2010)

“Unfair Weather Friend” (with Willie Nelson) (2015)


  1. Great list. I knew most of these but had almost forgotten about “Our Paths May Never Cross.” George Strait actually recorded that one on his 1983 album Right Or Wrong, and that’s how I was introduced to that song.

  2. Mighty Merle sang many great ballads. One of my favorites was, “Kern River,” a song that wove together his storytelling skills and his exceptional, unmistakable voice.

  3. Losing Merle is such a damn shame. He was one of American music’s, not just country music’s, greatest songwriters of all time. The impact he had on the genre was as vast and important as anyone. He single-handedly brought so many amazing songs to the world of music.

    I put this list together on another site, but these are probably my Top 20 songs from Merle . . .

    1. Sing Me Back Home
    2. Mama Tried
    3. Okie From Muskogee
    4. Pancho & Lefty with Willie Nelson
    5. Workin’ Man Blues
    6. Kern River
    7. Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)
    8. Big City
    9. Yesterday’s Wine with George Jones
    10. Kentucky Gambler
    11. Branded Man
    12. If We Make It Through December
    13. Soilder’s Last Letters
    14. My Own Kind of Hat
    15. It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)
    16. It’s All In the Movies
    17. I’m A Lonesome Fugitive
    18. I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
    19. C.C. Waterback with George Jones
    20. Fightin’ Side of Me

  4. I don’t think it’s overstating the matter that Merle’s passing leaves us with just a bare handful of artists left from that great quarter-century period (1965-1990) when the best kind of country music was created, as opposed to being mass-produced. So many of those songs of his have become part of the American music landscape.

    To add to what Motown Mike listed (just a few, but there’s plenty more where these came from, of course):


  5. I agree with all of the sentiments expressed. Here’s my list of 20 favorites from Merle’s staggering legacy of country classics:

    The Bottle Let Me Down (1965)
    Branded Man (1967)
    Sing Me Back Home (1968)
    Mama Tried (1968)
    Mama’s Hungry Eyes (1969)
    Okie From Muskogee (1969)
    Today I Started Loving You Again (1969)
    Silver Wings (1969)
    I Can’t Be Myself (1971)
    Daddy Frank (1971)
    Carolyn (1971)
    The Farmer’s Daughter (1971)
    Shelly’s Winter Love (1971)
    It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad) (1972)
    If We Make It Through December (1974)
    It’s All in the Movies (1975)
    The Running Kind (1977)
    If We’re Not Back in Love by Monday (1977)
    Big City (1981)
    A Place to Fall Apart (w/Janie Frickie) (1984)

  6. These were single releases (A &/or B sides) – there are a bunch of great album tracks NOT listed

    01 I Can’t Be Myself
    02 Workin’ Man Blues
    03 Strangers
    04 Sing Me Back Home
    05 Mama Tried
    06 Emptiest Arms In The World
    07 Sidewalks of Chicago
    08 Footlights
    09 It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)
    10 Today I Started Loving You Again
    11 Cherokee Maiden
    12 The Bottle Let Me Down
    13 The Fugitive
    14 I Threw Away The Rose
    15 The Fighting Side of Me
    16 I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink
    17 Just Between The Two of Us (with Bonnie Owens)
    18 Grandma Harp
    19 Kentucky Gambler
    20 I Take A Lot of Pride In What I Am
    21 The Legend of Bonnie & Clyde
    22 In My Next Life
    23 Shelly’s Winter Love
    24 Daddy Frank
    25 Let’s Chase Each Other ‘Round The Room Tonight (with Leona Williams)
    26 If We Make It Through December
    27 Runaway Mama
    28 California Blues
    29 Everybody’s Had The Blues
    30 Swinging Doors

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.