You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

PBS offers the magnificent Merle

POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS

Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American country music fits nicely in that pantheon that includes Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Not since “Art Pepper: ‘Notes From a Jazz Survivor’” has a doc so movingly conveyed the pain and personal trauma at the heart of the art. Haggard-0110

Not coincidentally, both docs are driven by the unflinching honesty of the subject, who takes the job of doc protagonist as seriously as composing and performing.

If you only know the Haggard canon from his biggest hit, “Okie From Muskogee,” you’ll be floored by the lyricism and power of Hag’s pen: “Silver Wings,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Footlights,” “Today I Started Loving You Again,” “The Running Kind,” “White Line Fever,” “Working Man’s Blues” are only a few of his classics. And his work as a vocalist, picker and musicologist is, as the doc notes, an essential link to the origins of country music that few in the cookie-cutter factory that is contempo Nashville can relate to, let alone preserve.

“Learning to Live With Myself” writer-director Gandulf Hennig has one other first-rate music doc under his belt — 2004’s “Fallen Angel: Gram Parson,” about the short, tragic, yet musically fruitful life of that doomed Burrito and Byrd man. Luckily for Haggard, unlike Parsons, he never tried to keep up on the drug front with Rolling Stones (reformed) bad boy Keith Richards. Where Parsons’ demons demolished him in his mid-20s, Haggard, who not only spent many years in the bag and the bottle but also two hard years in San Quentin, is now in his early 70s and still cooking. He puts everything he’s got into his shows and his recordings, as the doc amply reports.Merle-haggard-100

Richards appears in “Learning” — along with other luminaries such as Kris Kristofferson, Robert Duvall and fellow country giant Ray Price — as one of the many valuable voices of appreciation and personal insight into Haggard’s life, oeuvre and raison d’etre. As Keith explains, “Merle is completely not about showbiz. He has things he wants to show you and things he wants to tell you. That’s what it’s all about.”

More TV

  • RuPaul

    RuPaul Reveals the Queens Competing in 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' Season 3

    POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American […]

  • Donald Trump

    SAG-AFTRA Supports 'Unencumbered Press' After Trump's License Revocation Threat

    POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American […]

  • Brent Briscoe Dead: 'Twin Peaks' and

    Brent Briscoe, 'Twin Peaks' and 'Parks and Recreation' Actor, Dies at 56

    POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American […]

  • YouTube logo

    TV News Roundup: YouTube Greenlights Tinder-Themed Comedy 'Swipe Right'

    POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American […]

  • THE GIFTED: L-R: Natalie Alyn Lind,

    Delayed Viewing Ratings: 'Gifted' Scores for Fox, 'Good Doctor' Stands Strong on ABC

    POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American […]

  • The Walking Dead Season 7 Mid

    Microsoft Picks Up Six-Second Ads in AMC's 'Walking Dead'

    POSTED BY STEVEN GAYDOS Coming down the pike on July 21 courtesy of PBS’ “America Masters” series is one of the best music bio docs I’ve seen in years: “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself’,” a journey into the heartbeat of a complex songwriter, musican and singer whose place in the history of American […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content