WASHINGTON, D.C. – Merle Haggard's (search) honky-tonk style has influenced generations of country singers and he's sung everything from the blues to his political views.
The country music legend was in Washington, D.C., this week with his sister Lillian Haggard Hoge to present items to the Smithsonian Museum of American History -- artifacts from the Dust Bowl days when his family moved from Oklahoma to California.
The items, including a quilt, a sewing machine and a camera, will be part of the Route 66 display at the Smithsonian's "America on the Move" exhibit, which opens in November.
But during the event, when someone asked him a political question, his sister quickly jumped in.
"Don't ask him, we don't have that much time,” she said, laughing.
Haggard joked, "I have a lot of opinions that I'd be afraid to express this close to the White House.”
The fact is, Haggard's music has always been full of opinion -- his lyrics often giving voice to beliefs held by the working man.
"I'm the guy that wrote 'The Fightin' Side of Me' also, so I'm very red, white and blue and very much concerned about our country,” he said.
Lyrics to this song include: "If you don't love it, leave it. Let this song that I'm singing be a warning 'cause when you're running down our country man, you're walking on the fighting side of me."
And at the event at the Smithsonian, Haggard reiterated his love for the United States.
"When you're tearing down our country, whether it's from the inside or the outside, I'm against it. I'd like to see America proud and unafraid again,” he said. “And I don't know if that will ever occur in my lifetime ... But that's what I hope."
Today, Haggard's newest material suggests he is still watching world events from the perspective of the common man. As one new song goes: "Politicians do the talking. Soldiers pay the dues. Suddenly the war is over. That's the news."
And Haggard says he has questions about the aftermath of the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
“I wish we could find some weapons of mass destruction and I wish we could find Saddam Hussein (search). I wish we could find Usama bin Laden (search), and is it really going to happen, is there a chance of that, or is it just going to be swept under the carpet and forgot about?”
Strong opinions, for sure. But they happen to be the opinions of a man who has proven time and time again that he has his finger on the pulse of the working men and women of this country.
Haggard's spent nearly 40 years on the road -- singing his anthems about real life in the heartland.