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Lecture 5

MUS 365 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Merle Haggard, June Carter Cash, Concept Album

Course Code
MUS 365
Benjamin Ordaz

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Betrayal, Murder, and Prison
Part 3
Along with murder songs, Country Music also has its share of songs that see the
murderer brought to justice through execution
Merle Haggard wrote and recorded probably one of the most famous execution songs,
“Sing Me Back Home,” in 1967
It rose to number one on the charts that year for seventeen weeks
The song tells of the death walk of a murderer to his execution
It is sentimentalized, like many of Haggard’s prison songs
o He served time in San Quentin for car theft, where he heard Johnny Cash give a
The third installment of Johnny Cash’s American Song series was released by him in
Ameican III: Solitary Man contains songs written by Cash, as well as Tom Petty, U2,
David Alan Coe, Neil Diamond, and Will Oldham
There are a host of star back-ups on the album, such as June Carter Cash, Merle
Haggard, Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty, and Marty Stuart
“The Mercy Seat follows up on the prison execution theme that we heard in Merle
Haggard’s Sing Me Back Home”
However, Nick Cave and Mick Harvey’s song moves down the hallway from the death
walk to “The Mercy Seatand the execution, itself
It is a much more honest and brutal take on both the mind of a murderer and his
As Willie Nelson continues to tour and perform as he nears the middle of his seventh
decade, he has become an American icon which seemed to be confirmed by his
selection to close the celebrity telethon for the 2001 victims of the 9-11 attack by
performing “America the Beautiful
No less than the likes of Miles Davis considered him one of America’s great singers
Nelson has been awarded five Grammies, including a Living Legend Award, and has seen
his concept album “Red Headed Stranger” inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
He has been the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year and has received
six of their other awards for his albums and singles
Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was only the fourth
recipient of The National Academy of Popular Music’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Remarkably, at the relatively young age of forty, he was inducted into the Songwriters
Association Hall of Fame by composing over 2,500 songs to date
o Many of them hits for other singers
Willie recorded a series of landmark Country Music concept album, most dating from
the early to mid-1970’s with others appearing sporadically into the mid 1990’s:
o Yesterday’s Wine (1971)
o Phase and Stages (1974)
o Red Headed Stranger (1975)
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