Back in 1969, Merle Haggard was quickly becoming a conservative hero for his songs depicting “the silent majority.” The Hag was known for his patriotic take on current events, and “The Fightin’ Side of Me” was one of his most successful stabs at it.
In the song, Haggard doesn’t offer any solutions to the world’s problems, but does warn that anybody who talks ill of the country will find themselves on his bad side. A lot of people were protesting the Vietnam war as a vehicle for larger criticism of American life, and Haggard found himself standing up for the idea of supporting the country through thick and thin.
In 2014, Haggard teamed up with George Strait during the 2014 Academy of Country Music’s “Salute To The Troops.” King George and The Hag traded verses in a performance that proved as popular as when the song first came out.
“The Fightin’ Side of Me” was nominated for both Song of the Year and Single of the Year at the 1970 Country Music Association Awards, but lost both. Ironically, the tune lost the Single of the Year award to “Okie From Muskogee,” another Haggard tune that countered the counter-culture.
Country music has always had a strong history of political opinions, and while Haggard often found himself on one side of the equation, just as many outlaw and alt.-country artists ended up on the other. But through it all, the genre has always had a respect for the soldiers called to fight on the country’s behalf, whether artists believed in the fight or not.
George Strait does his part to support veterans by giving brand new homes to soldiers through the Homes 4 Wounded Heroes support foundation. Strait would often bring up the veteran and his or her family on stage during a concert to present them with a key in an always moving presentation.