And you thought LeBron had game as a mere child . . .
And speaking of country music legends (see our tribute to King Bob Wills in our previous posting here at JFJ.com).
Here’s an interview in which His Greatness Merle Haggard speaks highly of President Obama (about time somebody did), speaks hosannas about Paul McCartney and shares his always plainspoken thoughts about a lot of stuff.
By Patrick Doyle
December 28, 2010
Merle Haggard is no stranger to the White House: He was a guest of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who — when he was governor of California — had granted the singer a full pardon for the felonies and misdemeanors that led to three years at San Quentin Prison.
Earlier this month, the 73-year-old singer returned to Washington, this time alongside Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, composer Jerry Herman and dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones to receive the Kennedy Center Honors, a lifetime achievement for the performing arts.
In this interview, Haggard reflects on the three-day whirlwind gala, his life after lung cancer, and future plans to record and tour in a new supergroup with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
What was the highlight for the whole thing for you?
I probably enjoyed meeting the presidents, especially Bill [Clinton].
Is he a big fan of yours?
Well he said he was, and he never lied to me [laughs]. It was also nice to meet Obama and find him very different from the media makeout. It’s really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he’s doing certain things that he’s not. It’s just a big old political game that I don’t want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I’m sure some of it’s true and some of it’s not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be.
What’s the biggest lie out there about Obama?
He’s not conceited. He’s very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help. I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.
Did you talk to the President much?
I told him, “You and I have something in common: our wives are both taller than we are.” And he said “No! She’s got on 3-inch heels! And she is not that tall!” He was like me. He grabbed that real quick.
Did you spend much time mingling with the other honorees?
We had quite a bit of time. There were three events that I attended. Paul was there the whole time. But “Ope” – we got to call Oprah “Ope” – was completely beside herself. I don’t think she’d ever been a recipient of much in her life. She reached over to me, leaned over and said, ‘You know, we’ve come the farthest.’
Some people wrote about how they didn’t think Oprah should be in there because she didn’t write music or isn’t an artist.
Some people I think are too critical and don’t have not enough intelligence to make that kind of a comment. Who is to say? There’s a hundred people, including all of the ex-presidents’ wives, that have a say on who is nominated. It’s not about who wrote the best song or who the best songwriter was, but who was the best in their field. And television is certainly a modern method of communication that you can’t overlook and she’s probably the mother figure of that right now. I don’t know how anybody can say she wasn’t deserving of it.
What was it like hanging out with Paul McCartney?
He’s Paul McCartney, man. You can’t forget that he wrote those songs. That kept going through my mind: I’m an aspiring songwriter and sat beside the guy that wrote “Yesterday.” I recorded that. Some guys are famous for some songs you don’t remember, but that’s not the case there. When they started “Hey Jude,” with this wonderful orchestra, the building came apart. Everybody in the audience was singing it. It was a chiller.
Quite a few people showed up to honor you. Kris Kristofferson sang “Silver Wings” Willie and Sheryl Crow sang “Today I Started Loving You Again,” Vince Gill and Brad Paisley sang “Workin’ Man’s Blues.” Jamey Johnson did “Ramblin’ Fever.” What was it like to sit there and just watch these people play your songs that you wrote over the years?
Well, it’s the ultimate. You’re hittin’ around the right spot, it’s great, and probably couldn’t be topped. And I enjoyed watching Vince Gill give Brad Paisley a lesson – he took a course on “Workin’ Man Blues.” But Brad is so hot and so good.
Did you have a good chance to catch up with old friends Willie and Kris?
We got to eat a little something together. We didn’t know what the hell this food was, but we thought it was funny.
Last summer you told us you and Willie are planning to record an album of new material together.
I’m glad you brought that up. We talked about doing that together, but with the presence of Kris, we talked about the three of us doing it. I’m sure if we’re healthy and live to do it, we’ll do it. We thought about the title: the Musketeers. You know, because there’s the three of us. We’ll come up with some little way of describing ourselves I guess and put it together into a show.
You had part of your lung removed in 2008 due to cancer and had to cancel a few shows back in September for health reasons. How are you feeling now?
Well, it took a long time to get over that surgery. It took the best part of two years and I’m just now feeling like I might be able to reach over and pick up a garbage can with the right arm. They removed an upper lobe of my right lung, and they had to go in underneath my arm. It’s quite painful and irritating to have that. You know how tender that is underneath your arm. To have that heal up, it takes a couple of good years. I think I’m all right now. I went down and had a checkup just prior to going back for this little gig and I was clear. I didn’t have anything, and that’s an awful good sign.
Here’s a little Bob Wills tribute for you, simply because he’ll always be the King of Western Swing, not to mention the King of the Great Nation of Texas.
Because deep within my heart lies a melody, a song, a song of San Antone . . .
Mick and the boys should have stuck to rock . . .
Here’s what Waylon tried to teach the Stones:
In which an Airzona High School student practices actual journalism by uncovering actual facts and using them quite effectively to get at some actual truth.
That’s what journalism is supposed to be about–uncovering truth and shining a bright light on public figures who speak out of both sides of their mouths–and that can be done without all the shrill shouting and screaming that comes with so much, maybe even most, of today’s TV journalism.
This kid may have a future with “60 Minutes”-that great American institution that still practices solid, old-fashioned journalism.
My soul is in anguish.
How long, O Lord, how long?”
— Psalm 6: 3
IN THE PHOTO: This picture of San Antonio soldier Nikolai Starr of the famous 101rst Airborne Div. looking through his vehicle’s window with a bullet hole in Chowkay district near the Pakistani border in Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan. The 101st Airborne Division, a force in America’s major conflicts since World War II, is seeing its worst casualties in a decade as the U.S. surge in Afghanistan turns into the deadliest year in that war for the NATO coalition.
(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
When I was a kid, when someone would leave the door to a house open and allow a cold blast of wintry weather into the house, someone would typically say:
“Shut the door! Were you born in a barn?”
Not many people were born in a barn, excepting you-know-who, he who came to save humankind with healing love and grace. As my cyber-friend Emily Gibson put it in her “Barnstorming” blog:
Barns reek of manure and urine. They are dusty, have cobwebs, and are inhabited with unwelcome critters along with the ones that are meant to be housed there. People who have been traveling by foot or on a donkey for several days are not going to be wearing beautiful robes, their hair beautifully brushed and skin pure and white. Shepherds who spend weeks tending flocks of sheep in the hills don’t bathe regularly, nor get their clothes mended or cleaned. They would have walked in smelling like the animals they cared for.
What a setting to have a baby.
What a place for God to take His first human breath.
So Jesus was born in the midst of a very earthly mess. Yet, in the stable, they found safety, they found shelter, they found privacy, and there was warmth from the bodies of the animals. It became sanctuary for two people who had nowhere else to go and were grateful for even the most primitive accomodations.
For sure, we can know and feel the presence of God in a house of worship with beautiful stained-glass windows and near-perfect choirs singing hosannas, but God is just as fully present and available to us in the messy places of the world: in emergency rooms and war zones, in slums and in the aftermaths of natural disasters.
The incarnate one, who was born in the most unlikely of settings, abides eternally in the most unlikely places, blowing like the wind where it will, across all borders and boundaries.