WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT Merle Haggard
Jesse Adams
Before Merle Haggard, "protest music" belonged to a few earnest idealists stumping for liberal causes. But in the cauldron of the 60s, as radical change swept the nation, Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee" gave voice to middle-America and, effectively, protested the protests. Republicans co-opted his down-home demeanor to symbolize Nixon's "silent majority" - although iconoclastic Haggard also did a song supporting interracial romance - and country music became a major front in the culture wars.