About half-way through his set at Spokane’s INB Performing Arts Center Monday night almost 70-year-old country star, Merle Haggard played a song he told the audience he’d just finished up that morning.
It had a one-word title, he said, and was likely to “piss off” at least half of the audience. A few might even walk out, he said. But, an assistant brought out a music stand and Merle started crooning about a woman named “Hillary.”
“The country needs to be honest,” he sang. “Change needs to be large.”
“Let’s put a woman in charge.”
A few in the crowd, (including our neighbors who complained all throughout Haggard’s opening act, Neko Case, because they “didn’t buy tickets to see Jewel”) scoffed at Merle’s tribute while others wondered if he was serious. “How did you take it?” we overheard one cowboy asking another as we left the show.
Haggard had, afterall, brought the crowd to their feet just a few songs earlier with “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” his pro-America Vietnam-based tune from 1970.
But if the country legend’s take on current politics — especially in regard to the current war — he’s serious. Haggard got some flack in 2003 with his song “That’s the News,” which criticized coverage of the Iraq war and he later came to the aid of the Dixie Chicks when they came under fire for their comments about President George Bush at a concert.
On Monday, when he finished “Hillary” (which I’m assuming is the song’s one-word title), Haggard lamented that, “a song like that will never get played.”
Then he moved right into a rousing rendition of, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” and any grumbling about “Hillary” began to fade.