Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Willie Nelson's St. Louis Shows Goes on despite Merle Haggard's Death

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Willie Nelson's St. Louis Shows Goes on despite Merle Haggard's Death

Article excerpt

What do you do if you're a country music lifer and one of your friends and few equals in the field one that, in fact, you're supposed to be sharing the stage with right now suddenly passes away?

You gather your family and friends around you, mourn in your own fashion, and carry on.

That's what Willie Nelson did Saturday night at the Peabody Opera House downtown. Merle Haggard died last Wednesday, his 79th birthday. The pair had teamed for the recent album "Django and Jimmie" and booked a tour together.

The show went on as scheduled, with singer/songwriters Ryan Bingham and Jamey Johnson hastily added to the bill.

On Wednesday, Nelson tweeted a photo of himself with Haggard, captioned, "He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him."

In concert, Nelson chose to keep any further thoughts on the matter private. He said nothing about Haggard from the stage, nor much of anything else aside from his usual brief song introductions.

But late in the show, he performed "It's All Goin' to Pot," a pro- marijuana duet from "Django and Jimmie," with Johnson singing Haggard's part. They followed that with "Okie from Muskogee," likely Haggard's best-known hit, which, when it was released in 1969, was a resounding put-down of the drug culture.

The humorous juxtaposition, plus the version of Nelson's "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" that followed, would not have been lost on Haggard, who always reserved his right to change his mind about things, and often did.

The show ended with Nelson's standard set closer, a medley of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "I'll Fly Away." But on this night, it felt like the songs may have had a little extra meaning and were sung in Haggard's honor, even if no one specifically said so.

Prior to that, Nelson played his regular show of hits and favorites, including "Whiskey River," "Good Hearted Woman," "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "On the Road Again," and many others. …

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