Merle Haggard's My House of Memories: For the Record

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9780061097959: Merle Haggard's My House of Memories: For the Record

In this riveting personal story, the award-winning, bestselling recording artist takes you on a tour through his house of memories, offering a fascinating look inside his turbulent and successful life. Merle reveals previously untold stories about his birth and troubled upbringing in a converted railroad boxcar. He recalls the loss of his father when he was nine, and how his childish disobedience transformed into full-blown delinquency that landed him behind the cold walls of San Quentin. Having lived a Iife shaped by violence, gambling, and drugs, he shares the lessons he learned and how he continues to pay for decades of reckless living. He pays tribute to his mother, and relives the painful memory of her death. And he talks about the music he loves, and how it has ultimately defined the man he is.

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Review:

Somewhere in the middle of this blunt autobiography, Merle Haggard talks about the "art called country music" and describes it astutely as "emotion set to rhythm." "A song was an excuse," he writes, "to sing some of the sentimental things." Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that when Haggard attempts the unsung word he's oddly terse, dry, and emotionless--despite his roaring successes and multiple misfortunes. Haggard is nothing if not frank, although his candid storytelling often becomes sensationalistic. For example, his five-year coke orgy during the late '70s and early '80s warrants the opening chapter of an otherwise chronological tale. The death of his father when Haggard was 9 is clearly the defining moment of his life, yet we have to get past his wet T-shirt phase before we hear about it.

Haggard spends well more than half the book recounting his early-life travails--revolving-door stays in institutions, halls, reform schools, jails, and prisons of every sort. His misspent-youth stories are enthralling in a certain way, but he seems to tell them from the perspective of either a child who doesn't understand what's happening or an elder who has the benefit of experience--never from the perspective of a man going through these horrors at the time. He even writes on a number of occasions that he looks at his younger self as a completely different person, which may explain why his accounts often lack emotional depth. He recalls (often crudely) his numerous fights, drunken escapades, sexual conquests (stories about wanting to "get into her pants"), and many other sordid details (must we hear the story about his steel player farting during a show?) to the point that what gets short shrift, unfortunately, is his brilliant music. In a way, though, a memoir like this makes perfect sense because Haggard has never pulled any punches. And while the book doesn't offer many of his own insights, it certainly presents a clear picture of his remarkable life, which allows readers to draw their own conclusions about his personality and his music. Perhaps we should be thankful Haggard saves his emotions for his songs--they always make for thrilling listening. --Marc Greilsamer

About the Author:

Merle Haggard is the author of Sing Me Back Home. He has recorded forty-one number one hits.

Tom Carter is a Nashville journalist who has collaborated on autobiographies of major country superstars, including Glen Campbell, Ralph Emery, Reba McEntire, and George Jones.



Merle Haggard is the author of Sing Me Back Home. He has recorded forty-one number one hits.

Tom Carter is a Nashville journalist who has collaborated on autobiographies of major country superstars, including Glen Campbell, Ralph Emery, Reba McEntire, and George Jones.

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