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Bob Dylan Explains Controversial Comments About Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan
Ethan Miller/Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

When Bob Dylan called out several country legends during his MusiCares Person of the Year acceptance speech, it was surprising to hear him supposedly dis his former tour partner Merle Haggard. Now, Dylan is clarifying his comments, explaining that they were not directed toward Haggard in a negative way.

“I wasn’t dissing Merle, not the Merle I know,” Dylan says in an interview on his website. “What I was talking about happened a long time ago, maybe in the late ’60s. Merle had that song out called ‘Fighting Side of Me,’ and I’d seen an interview with him where he was going on about hippies and Dylan and the counter culture, and it kind of stuck in my mind and hurt, lumping me in with everything he didn’t like. But of course times have changed, and he’s changed too … He’s a complete man, and we’re friends these days. We have a lot in common.”

The musical icons were tour partners in 2005 on the Never Ending Tour, and Dylan has only positive things to say about that experience, as well as Haggard’s music and personality.

“I’ve toured with him and have the highest regard for him, his songs, his talent — I even wanted him to play fiddle on one of my records, and his Jimmie Rodgers tribute album is one of my favorites that I never get tired of listening to,” he says. “He’s also a bit of a philosopher. He’s serious, and he’s funny.”

Originally, Dylan said, “Merle Haggard didn’t even think much of my songs. I know he didn’t. He didn’t say that to me, but I know way back when, he didn’t. Buck Owens did, and he recorded some of my early songs … And that trumps anything else out of Bakersfield. Buck Owens or Merle Haggard? If you had to have somebody’s blessing, you can figure it out.”

Haggard quickly responded on Twitter, writing, “Bob Dylan, I’ve admired your songs since 1964. ‘Don’t Think Twice’ Bob, Willie [Nelson] and I just recorded it on our new album.”

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