Of course, “If We Make It Through December” was initially intended as a “Christmas song,” when he included it as the lead single for his 1973 album Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present, but it later became the the title track to a non-Christmas album four months later, as well.
A solo write by Merle, the song became one of the signature songs of his career, and peaked at#1 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart.
He tells the story of a man who got laid off at the factory and is struggling through what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of year, and he explains the sadness he feels knowing that his little girl won’t have the Christmas he wants to give her this year:
“Got laid off down at the factory And their timing’s not the greatest in the world Heaven knows I’ve been working hard I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl I don’t mean to hate December It’s meant to be the happy time of year But my little girl don’t understand Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here…”
Of course, it’s been covered by countless artists over the years, including ” Alan Jackson, Marty Robbins, Faron Young, and more recently, Cody Johnson and even the Pistol Annies.
But there’s just somethin’ about this vintage live performance from Merle that is next level… he has some of the most classically country vocals of all-time, and he delivers this song with such emotion and conviction that I believe you really only can as the person who wrote it.
There’s no specific date here, but if I had to guess, it looks like it probably took place sometime around the songs release, possibly in the mid-to-late 70’s or even early 80’s.
Do yourself a favor and check it out, you certainly will not be disappointed: