Controversy

Episode 9

Okie From Muskogee

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Aired Unknown Unknown on CMT - Country Music Television
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Okie From Muskogee
In 1969, as America was in turmoil, reeling from the effects of high-profile assassinations, racial tensions and divisions over the Vietnam War, Merle Haggard wrote a "tribute song" about everyday Americans through the lens of small town life in Muskogee, Okla. Though the original lyrics are on display at the Smithsonian Institution and a copy of the song is part of a time capsule left on the moon, not everyone was a fan. While President Richard Nixon loved "Okie" and asked Haggard to perform it at the White House, counterculture leaders including Black Panther Bobby Seale and feminist Bella Abzug decried the lyrics as "divisive" and "related to only a certain segment of society." Many radio stations, under pressure from owners who disagreed with Haggard's politics, pulled the song from the airwaves. Haggard stopped getting booked for lucrative television appearances even as the song hit No. 1 in Billboard. Despite the controversy, "Okie" became Haggard's biggest hit and a cultural touchstone for many.moreless
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