Today we celebrate what would have been country legend Merle Haggard’s 80th birthday. In honor of the occasion, we’re going all the way back to the release of his iconic hit that has been played in honky tonks all over the country ever since, “Mama Tried.”
“Mama Tried” was the first single off his album of the same name and was released in July 22, 1968. The semi-autobiographical tune tells the story of the pain a young man caused his mother after living a reckless life and ending up in jail.
“I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole/No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried/Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied/That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried,” the chorus sings.
Though Haggard was never sent to prison without parole, he did spend some time in the slammer in his youth prior to making it big as a country music star. “Mama Tried” was one of 38 singles that hit the top of the charts for Haggard and won him the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999 in addition to its preservation in the National Recording Registry which was announced just two weeks before his death.
“Mama Tried” is reminiscent of the Bakersfield sound that Haggard had a hand in making popular. The track features heavy steel guitar focus and a rougher sound on the recordings.
Haggard was a staple in country music until his death in April of 2016 due to complications with pneumonia. Though gone, his music is still a heavy influence for artists throughout the genre still today. To honor the legend some of country music’s biggest names are gathering today on his birthday, for a tribute titled ‘Sing Me Back Home.’ Some players on the bill include Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, John Mellencamp, Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams Jr. and Toby Keith.