On this date back in 1968, Merle Haggard was on top of the Country charts for the third time with his iconic and tragic song “Sing Me Back Home”.
It was the title track and lead single for his 5th studio album and spent 2 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot Country chart.
The song was written as an ode to two inmates he became friends with during his time in San Quentin State Prison in California: Caryl Chessman, who was the first modern American executed for a non-lethal kidnapping, and James “Rabbit” Kendrick, who was executed for killing a Highway Patrolman after escaping from prison.
The song is truly a heartbreaker, as it’s sung from the perspective of an inmate who plays guitar for those in the jail watching another be lead to the execution chambers, but on his way he asks for one final request, that he can listen one final time to that guy play a song. He asks that the song be one that brings back his old memories from better times long ago.
“The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom I stood up to say goodbye like all the rest And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell ‘Let my guitar playing friend do my request.’ (Let him)
Sing me back home with a song I used to hear And make my old memories come alive And take me away and turn back the years And sing me back home before I die…”
No denying this is one of the saddest songs of all-time, and it was even noted as such on The Rolling Stone’s 40 Saddest Country Songs of All-Time list.
It’s songs like these that made Merle Haggard who he was.