Country Music

Revisiting Merle Haggard’s “That’s The Way Love Goes” – a farewell to one of the greatest, Mr. Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard, known for his exceptional talent in covering classic songs, once again demonstrated his prowess with “That’s the Way Love Goes.” This track, originally penned in 1973 by the illustrious Lefty Frizzell and Sanger D. Shafer, was first brought to life by Johnny Rodriguez in the same year. Rodriguez’s rendition, featured on his album “All I Ever Meant to Do was Sing,” soared to the top of the US charts and made its mark on the Canadian chart as well, showcasing the song’s widespread appeal.

A decade later, in the early 1980s, Merle Haggard decided to put his unique spin on “That’s the Way Love Goes” for his thirty-eighth studio album, also named after the song. Haggard’s version not only mirrored the success of its predecessor by topping both the US and Canadian charts but also brought him critical acclaim. The album itself climbed to number eight on the US Billboard chart. This cover wasn’t just a chart-topper; it also earned Haggard the prestigious Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1984, a testament to his remarkable interpretation of the song.

Interestingly, “That’s the Way Love Goes” has been a popular choice for covers among various artists, not just Haggard. In 1974, Connie Smith included it in her similarly titled album, and even the songwriter himself, Lefty Frizzell, couldn’t resist recording his version. Adding to the song’s enduring legacy, Haggard revisited it in 1999, this time collaborating with singer-songwriter Jewel. Their duet version, while not reaching the heights of Haggard’s solo cover, still made a respectable entry into the Billboard country chart at number fifty-six.

The collaboration between Jewel and Merle Haggard was more than just a one-off recording. It was part of a larger project, Haggard’s album “Merle Haggard: For the Record,” which featured a total of forty-three tracks. This collection was special as it included re-recordings of some of Haggard’s previous hits, performed alongside various artists such as Willie Nelson, Brooks and Dunn, and Alabama. Among these collaborations were two tracks with Jewel: “Silver Wings” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.” Their joint performances, including a memorable live rendition at the 1999 CMA Awards, showcased the timeless quality of Haggard’s music and his ability to bridge generational gaps in country music.

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