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Wednesday, July 21 at 9 p.m. – American Masters "Merle Haggard: Learning to Live with Myself"

(Rochester, NY) American Masters followed musician Merle Haggard for two years, on tour and at home on his ranch to produce “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live with Myself,” airing Wednesday, July 21 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT 21.1/cable 1011 and 11). Known for his distinctive voice, finger-picking and interpretations, the former prison inmate recently survived major lung surgery; he’s now in top physical shape, full of creative juices and hitting new artistic and commercial highs. The program includes interviews with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price, Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams and Allison Krauss.

The hardscrabble people with whom he was raised – his juvenile delinquency and incarcerations – still inform his creativity and perspective. He actually lived the rambling, gambling, love ‘em and leave ‘em, often brutal life that remains the bedrock of country music lyrics – he  hopped his first freight train at the age of 10, became a chronic truant and drinker and was locked up some 17 times as a youngster. Serious criminal charges followed – car theft, bank robbery – Haggard was, literally, in the inmate audience in 1959, when Johnny Cash gave his New Year’s Day concert in San Quentin – and, as he’s said repeatedly, “my life changed forever.”  
 
A kind of wandering troubadour, who’s led his band The Strangers  since 1965, Haggard is known as a singer’s singer and a guitar player’s guitar player – his voice, his finger picking and his interpretations are like none others. At 72, he recently survived major lung surgery and is now in top physical shape, full of creative juices and hitting new artistic and commercial highs. With a steady diet of herbal tea, yoga practice and Cole Porter, the contradictions and self-awareness are remarkable. The transformation of this former Nixon Poster Boy to outspoken critic of Bush-era America happens before our eyes. His expressed concern for keeping his music honest in a changing industry and in a changing world is palpable. This old Okie from Muskogee (1969) is asking Where’s All the Freedom? and urging us to Rebuild America First.    

Credit: ©Travis Huggett


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