OFFSTAGE: Merle Haggard Wishes He’d Written George Strait Tune

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

How many solid country songs have been written between 1978 and now? One, if you ask Merle Haggard. He compiled a list of songs he wishes he’d written for Rolling Stone magazine, and they span nearly 50 years of what he considers the most well-written songs — from Jimmie Rodgers‘ “Waiting for a Train” in 1929 to Willie Nelson‘s “Always on My Mind” in 1982. (The latter, written by Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher and Mark James, was previously recorded by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley, among others.) There’s only one exception from the past 100 years. It is George Strait‘s “Give It Away” from 2006. “Jamey Johnson wrote this. It’s about two people breaking up. He says, ‘What are we gonna do with the chairs and table?’ She says, ‘(Expletive) it! Give it away.’ Jamey is the first to come along in a long spell with the ability to write that way,” Haggard said. His list has some very powerful stuff, from the sad and tragic ones to the laugh-out-loud ones. And here is how he chose the ones he chose: “It’s got to make a blue flame go behind my left ear and chill bumps run all over my body. And immediately you say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that? I could have written that, but I didn’t think of it.’”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.