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Merle Haggard's breathing easier now

January 31, 2009 |  4:43 pm

Back in 1973, the country was in the grip of economic woes. A beleaguered Republican president was overseeing an unpopular war abroad and gradually had lost the support of the American people.

The musical response from Merle Haggard at the time was "If We Make It Through December," a sobering song that spent a month at No. 1 on the country chart and became one of the singer-songwriter's signature compositions for its compassionate look at the plight of working people across the land.

 If we make it through December / Everything's gonna be all right I know / It's the coldest time of winter / And I shiver when I see the fallin' snow

Three and a half decades later, Haggard sits in the living room of his Northern California home on 168 rolling acres, a few bumpy, dusty miles outside of Redding. Along with the rest of the country, he's made it through another difficult December -- his 72nd -- into a new year. 

His cobalt-blue eyes are trained on the widescreen TV monitor mounted on the wall across the cozy room. The Bloomberg News channel is on, and stock prices crawl relentlessly across the bottom of the screen on the day after

Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States.

Most stocks, and Haggard's spirits, are up.

Read the full story here.

-- Randy Lewis reporting from Redding, CA.

(Photo courtesy Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)