“Sing Me Back Home”: The Story Behind Merle Haggard’s Saddest Song

“Sing Me Back Home” came from the prison captive himself. He released the song in 1967 as the first single and the title track of his record, Sing Me Back Home. The song spent two weeks at No. 1 and 17 weeks on the country charts. The song was Merle Haggard and The Strangers’ third No. 1 hit. And it’s one of the saddest country songs ever written and recorded.

The song “Sing Me Back Home” was inspired by fellow inmates James Rabbit and Caryl Chessman, who were also dreaming of freedom. Rabbit was executed in 1961 for killing a California Highway Patrolman, and Chessman was the first modern American executed for a non-lethal kidnapping.

Several artists have either performed or released their own versions of the song, including The Everly Brothers, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Don Williams, Alabama, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Marianne Faithful & Keith Richards.

The song tells the story of a condemned prisoner that is being taken to the death chamber. The prisoner’s last request is to hear a song from his friend and inmate who regularly plays for him. The song takes the prisoner back to his hometown, where he remembers the church he grew up in, his friends and his mama. He is settled into comfort as the inmate sings him back home to his final resting place.

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