Musical Monday: Mama Tried by Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard, who turned 77 this month, has performed for over fifty years. Now that is staying power. He was born in 1937 (the same year as my father) and grew up during the great depression. Merle’s difficult childhood worsened when his father died and his mother had to work long hours to support her family. He rebelled as a teen, was in and out of juvenile detention, and was eventually incarcerated in San Quentin.

While Merle was at San Quentin, Johnny Cash performed a concert at the prison that inspired Merle to turn his life around and pursue a music career. His personal experiences and the heartache he caused his mother during his troubled youth influenced him to write the song Mama Tried.

My son takes after his father with his love of old country music. This is one of his favorites, but I hope it’s just an appreciation for the music and not a sign he’ll turn into a rebellious teen. 😉

“Mama Tried”
by Merle Haggard

The first thing I remember knowing
Was a lonesome whistle blowing
And a young’un’s dream of growing up to ride
On a freight train leaving town
Not knowing where I’m bound
And no one could change my mind but Mama tried

One and only rebel child
From a family meek and mild
My mama seemed to know what lay in store
Despite all my Sunday learning
Towards the bad I kept on turning
Till Mama couldn’t hold me anymore

And 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

Dear old Daddy, rest his soul
Left my mom a heavy load
She tried so very hard to fill his shoes
Working hours without rest
Wanted me to have the best
She tried to raise me right but I refused

And 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

 

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