It’s one thing for country artists to sing about being a rebel, raising cain, ramblin’ and gamblin’ and lovin’ and leavin,’ but few actually live it (at least not anymore). Merle Haggard, on the other hand, actually did. He hopped his first freight train at the age of 10, became a chronic truant and drinker and was locked up 17 times as a youngster. He was one of the inmates in the audience in 1959, when Johnny Cash gave his New Year’s Day concert in San Quentin – an experience he said changed his life “forever.”
Somehow, Haggard survived, saved by music, and now at 73, he’s at the top his game. It’s what makes the American Masters presentation of “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live with Myself” such a fantastic documentary. Directed by part-time Nashvillian Gandulf Hennig (Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons), the documentary captures an “American master” still very much vital, full of creative juices and hitting new artistic and commercial highs. He remains full of contradictions and self-awareness, determined to keep his music honest in a changing industry and in a changing world. Tune in on Wednesday, July 21 at 8:00 to catch to catch this revelatory film.
Haggard’s not the only one not slowing down. Ringo Starr turns 70 on July 7th! To celebrate, we’ve got him, along with Ben Harper and the Relentless 7, on a new season of the great music series, Live from the Artists Den. Tune in on Friday, July 9 at 11:00 p.m. for the premiere, then come back on subsequent Fridays for Tori Amos (July 16) and David Gray (July 23). Starr’s bandmate in the Beatles, a fellow named Paul McCartney, also makes an appearance on NPT this month, on Wednesday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m., to accept The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at the White House. The special airs just two days after McCartney makes his first appearance in Nashville, at the Bridgestone Arena, on July 26. Welcome to Nashville, Paul!
Read the Rest of the NPT Music Monthly July 2010 on the wnpt.net news page. It’s the complete listing of all the music programming coming to NPT this month. Subscribe for free, and view a complete list of programming for July at wnpt.net.