Album: Pride in What I Am
Label: Capitol Records


One of the very greatest voices of our time, being countercultural at a moment when almost everyone perceived him otherwise: “Things I learned in a hobo jungle were things they never taught me in a classroom/Like how to find a handout when bummin' through Chicago in the afternoon.” Home's where you find it, he says, even sleeping on a city park bench. (On his most recent album as I write this, 2011's Working In Tennessee, the most memorable track by far was also about being homeless "“Under the Bridge,” a zillion times better than the Red Hot Chili Peppers song.)

Anyway, of 24 studio albums that Haggard put out between September 1965 and May 1977, Pride In What I Am was the only one that didn't hit the country top 10, but that's not where I first heard “this old mental fat” Merle says he's chewing anyway "My introduction was the long out-of-print 1977 Capitol Special Products double best-of Songs I'll Always Sing, where it's not only the final track but easily the shortest: 1:56, punk-rock length for a punk-rock theme in a punk-rock year.

Most versions you'll find are nearly a minute longer, and not as fast, so the trick is to look for live ones "like the 1:54 2008 Wheeling, West Virginia one somebody posted on youtube, and the 1:52 one on 1970's Fightin' Side Of Me, a live LP rush-released (like 1969's Okee From Muskogee) to carry a new conservative silent-majority anthem. Politics are complicated.