The guy who started me on the path to songwriting was Merle Haggard.
While others in my college dorm were intently listening the to Doors, the Stones and Led Zeppelin, I was hiding out in the laundry room listening to Merle’s 1970 Fighting Side of Me. Not because I was a reactionary redneck. In fact, I was racing as fast as I could toward being a long-haired, dope-smoking hippie.
No, I was listening to that red, white and blue record because of one song: “Today I Started Loving You Again.”
It was the first song I learned how to play on my Epiphone dreadnaught.
Not only did it adhere to the 3 chords and the truth formula of Harland Howard, but also its lyrics were simple: a chorus and verse. Period.
Today I started loving you again
I’m right back where I’ve really always been
I got over you just long enough to let my heartache mend
Then today, I started loving you again
What a fool I was to think I could get by
With only these few millions tears I cry
I should have known the worst was yet to come
And that crying time for me had just begun
Doesn’t get much shorter than that.
Perhaps that’s why it is so powerful.
And Merle’s concise rendering of the most powerful emotions can also be heard in “Silver Wings,” which is another chorus-verse song, or verse-bridge depending on your point of view:
Shining in the sunlight
Headed somewhere in flight
They’re taking you away
And leaving me lonely
Slowly fading out of sight
Don’t leave me I cry
Don’t take that airplane ride
But you’ve locked me out of your mind
And left me standing here behind
As fate would have it: The Fighting Side of Me album also contained some not-so-conventional top 40 country tunes that helped ground me in real country (that blending of country, folk and blues). Songs like Bo Chatmon’s “Corrine, Corrina,” Jimmie Rodgers’ “T.B. Blues,” and Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer.”