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Exclusive: Hear a Classic Merle Haggard Ballad from the New ‘Okie from Muskogee’ Reissue

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Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard (courtesy Capitol Records/Universal Music)

By Kurt Wolff

A new double-CD reissue honoring the 45th anniversary of Merle Haggard‘s 1969 live album Okie from Muskogee is hitting stores this Tuesday (March 25). And today we have an exclusive preview of one of the album’s songs, “Today, I Started Loving You Again” (stream it below).

This new reissue actually includes two albums: Okie from Muskogee and Haggard’s followup album The Fightin’ Side of Me, also recorded live and released a year later (see the full track listing). The version below of his composition “Today I Started Loving You Again” was released on the latter album, which was recorded in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day in 1970.

Related: A classic Merle Haggard live album gets a new reissue 

Haggard originally recorded the song (which initially went by the title “I Started Loving You Again”) in 1968. He may have been best known at that point for snub-nosed songs like “Swinging Doors,” “Branded Man” and “Mama Tried,” but Haggard had already proven himself adept as a gentle balladeer, thanks to earlier recordings like “All of Me Belongs to You,” “I Threw Away the Rose” and “You Don’t Have Very Far to Go.”

According to the Country Music Hall of Fame (of which he’s been a member since 1994), Haggard’s inspiration for the song came he had some down time from touring with his band and his then-wife Bonnie Owens.

“I took a deep breath and thought about my own feelings maybe for the first time in three months,” Haggard recalled. “I looked at Bonnie and saw the exhaustion all over her face. She stared back, like people do when you look directly into their eyes. And I said, ‘You know what? Today I started loving you again.”

In the liner notes to the Haggard box set Down Every Road, Daniel Cooper wrote that Merle penned the song “on a paper sack in a hotel room in Dallas.”

“I Started Loving You Again” was originally the B-side to Hag’s hit single “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” but it soon became a hit on its own and, eventually, a country classic.

Related: Merle Haggard earns an ACM Award and a new tribute album

The 45th anniversary edition of Haggard’s album Okie from Muskogee hits stores on Tuesday, March 25.

Merle Haggard Merle Haggard (courtesy Capitol Records/Universal Music)

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