Contemporary country music’s new villain, Sturgill Simpson, destroyed the Academy of Country Music on Facebook this morning, just minutes before the organization announced Miranda Lambert as the first ever winner of the Merle Haggard Spirit Award.
In a 560-word tirade, Simpson took the ACM to task for exploiting the name of a man who found the organization and “pop country” music to be utterly repulsive.
Many years back, much like Willie and Waylon had years before, Merle Haggard said, “Fuck this town. I’m moving.” and he left Nashville.
According to my sources, it was right after a record executive told him that “Kern River” was a bad song. In the last chapter of his career and his life, Nashville wouldn’t call, play, or touch him. He felt forgotten and tossed aside. I always got a sense that he wanted one last hit..one last proper victory lap of his own, and we all know deserved it. Yet it never came. And now he’s gone.
Im writing this because I want to go on record and say I find it utterly disgusting the way everybody on Music Row is coming up with any reason they can to hitch their wagon to his name while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them. If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bullshit they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music.
Haggard, who passed away in April, was a huge fan of Simpson’s before he died. In part, because Simpson refused to record the Brad Paisley-esque trash that now litters country music stations across the country. And also because he’s an extremely talented musician.
Very few of Simpson’s songs involve “Friday nights,” “dirt roads” or “pick up trucks.”
In a 2015 interview with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Haggard sang Simpson’s praises while simultaneously shitting on everything else contemporary country music has to offer.
He sings the praises of Sturgill Simpson, the 37-year-old singer-songwriter who sounds like vintage Waylon Jennings. Haggard thinks highly enough of Simpson to have him open Sunday’s show at Bluestem Center for the Arts.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s the only one out there. The rest of them sound like a bunch of (crap) to me. He comes out and does a great show,” Haggard says.
“The rest of them” is everything else in contemporary country music, the opinionated icon says.
“I can’t tell what they’re doing,” says The Hag. “They’re talking about screwing on a pickup tailgate and things of that nature. I don’t find no substance. I don’t find anything you can whistle and nobody even attempts to write a melody. It’s more of that kids stuff. It’s hot right now, but I’ll tell you what, it’s cooling off.”
Haggard was the epitome of country music. I mean, he was born in a literal boxcar and was inspired to start performing country music after seeing Johnny Cash while he was an inmate at San Quentin prison. You couldn’t come up with a better story for the man.
But yeah, Keith Urban is cool, too. I guess.
Real country music fans are listening to Sturgill Simpson these days. His music is just about all the original genre has left. Simpson standing up for Haggard just makes me love him even more.
Sturgill clarified that his criticism was not toward the Merle Haggard Award recipient, Miranda Lambert.
Shortly after I initially posted this it was announced that Miranda Lambert would be the award recipient.
Before people start chasing clickbait by putting words in my mouth I feel the need to clarify that I was not aware of this at the time of my original post and my words were in no way directed at her. I know that Merle liked and respected her so it’s good to see there is at least some blue sky in all of this.
I don’t know Miranda nor have I ever met her but something tells me that in her heart, she knows I’m dead on. I am also aware that the ACM is a West Coast organization originally created to recognize West Coast artists like Merle and they have handed Merle many trophies over the years,..even in the last 15 or so mind you. It’s also worth noting that the last one was handed to him by none other than Miranda Lambert herself.
But all of this is irrelevant as none of it has anything to do with the original point I was trying to make. My point was that all of these organizations don’t walk it like they talk it. I called The ACM out directly because they are simply the latest in a long line of organizations that have done the same since Merle’s death…and even before. Showing homage and handing lifetime achievement awards to the greats of yesterday while claiming to uphold and hold dear the original values and integrity of Country music’s legacy. Yet these are just hollow words…merely empty semantics. One needs only to look glancingly at the majority of the music that they, along with the CMA’s, predominantly choose to recognize and promote at their award shows.
I fully realize that as I type this, meetings and conversations are taking place on music Row to ensure I am blackballed from the industry and that’s perfectly fine with me. Im not sure how you can blackball somebody you don’t acknowledge in the first place anyway. Yet, even though they mostly go out of their way to ignore artists like myself and Jason Isbell, I assure you they are more than aware of our existence. They are also well aware that we don’t need them. Our last albums went to #1 without any help from the Mainstream Country Music establishment…and our next albums will too. With that said, I have no more need to make enemies with these people than I have a need to be their friends. If anything I’m trying to help them. Because more and more everyday, people are waking up to the situation and they are pissed. Perhaps Country Music, especially Nashville, should wake up too before it’s too late.
I should also go ahead and add here that whether or not I am nominated for a CMA award this year, I will not be attending the ceremony for no other reason than the fact I already have a sold out show scheduled in Des Moines, Iowa on the night of the awards ceremony and I have no plans to change that.
Mostly though, I just wish Merle was still alive.
I’d love for them to all hear his thoughts on the matter.
P.S. Fuck this town. I’m moving.
What a badass. Please move to Austin..
Image via YouTube