When Merle Haggard passed away on April 6, 2016, country music artists mourned his death through powerful tribute performances. Due to the impact that Haggard had on the genre, artists both young and old honored him by covering some of his greatest songs.
Country’s Family Reunion went above and beyond to honor Haggard and his legacy. The show hosted a special dedicated to Haggard, which featured performances from some of country music’s greatest artists. Vince Gill paid his respects to “The Hag” during the special with his original tribute song “A World Without Haggard.” Haggard’s three sons, Marty, Noel, and Ben, had large roles in the special, with each of them singing a cover of one of their father’s songs.
Another country star in attendance was “Whisperin'” Bill Anderson. Known for songs such as “I Get the Fever” and “Still,” Anderson is one of the most highly-respected artists in country music.
For his tribute performance, Anderson decided to honor Haggard with one of his lesser-known songs. Called “Way Back in the Mountains,” the song was featured as a track on Haggard’s album titled 1994. Haggard co-wrote the tune with esteemed country singer-songwriter Max D. Barnes.
Like many of Haggard’s songs, “Way Back in the Mountains” appeals to the struggles and feelings that everyday people experience. He opens the song by asking “How far can a man stretch a dollar?” before going into detail about how rough life has been treating him lately. Wanting to escape all of his problems, he proclaims that he’s going to take off into the wilderness and live a simple life:
“I’m gonna move way back in the mountains.
Build a cabin nobody can find.
I’m gonna move way back in the mountains.
I’m gonna leave this old city behind.“
Anderson’s soft voice added an extra emotional quality to the song during his tribute. Merle’s sons were obviously moved by his performance, especially Marty, who appeared to be fighting back tears. We can’t blame him for getting emotional, because Anderson is an expert at channeling real, raw feelings into his performances.
Other than Haggard himself, we couldn’t think of a better person to sing this song than Anderson. His delivery was as heartfelt as they come, making it a performance that Haggard would have been proud to see.
Tune in to the video below to watch Anderson honor Haggard with “Way Back in the Mountains.” You’re sure to agree that it’s a profound tribute from one country legend to another.