Do you remember when Reba McEntire paid tribute to the late Merle Haggard with a “Mama Tried” cover, leaving everyone in tears? It was one of the most powerful and heartfelt tributes to the man who has poured his heart and soul to help make country music the incredible genre it is today.
But Haggard was more than a music icon to McEntire. He was also a source of inspiration and significant influence during her childhood. Before she kicked off her tribute to The Hag, McEntire revealed a beautiful story of how Haggard influenced her childhood and how that meant so much to her.
“A lot of people ask me all the time, ‘Who are my musical influences?’” McEntire said to the crowd. “There was another guy from Oklahoma – I had every album he ever put out. My older brother Pake and my little sister Susie and me, we sang every song he did…because Merle Haggard was a great influence on all of us.”
And with that, she began this incredible jam that will not only get your feet moving but will also melt your heart with all the memories it brings flooding back!
One Of The Foundation Songs Of Merle Haggard’s Career
Written by Merle Haggard himself while serving in San Quentin Prison for robbery, “Mama Tried” was based on his life and how his mother did her best to help him, but she couldn’t.
The song is almost autobiographical. Haggard’s father died of a stroke when he was only nine, so his mother had to work and be the sole provider for the family. At the same time, his mother was the only one left responsible for keeping Haggard out of trouble.
Being a devout member of the Church of Christ, she tried to keep him on the straight and narrow path with a stern upbringing based on her conservative values. However, this did not sit well with Haggard, who said he was an “incorrigible” child and always rebelling against her.
Eventually, Haggard got into trouble for offenses like shoplifting and writing bad checks. Stints in reform school did not help him, and in 1957, Haggard landed in prison for burglary – where he served for two years and nine months.
“And I turned twenty-one in prison doin’ life without parole. No one could steer me right, but Mama tried, Mama tried. Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied. That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried,” the song goes.
“Mama Tried” became one of the foundation songs of Haggard’s career. In 1999, it won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It was also chosen for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2016 just a few days before Haggard’s death – thanks to the song’s “cultural, historical, or artistic significance.”
Indeed, Reba McEntire has chosen such a beautiful song to honor one of the greatest country musicians to have ever lived, Merle Haggard. Listen to her rendition in the video below!