Mama Tried Lyrics

Merle Haggard 1968 Vinyl Record Memories


The Merle Haggard Mama Tried lyrics was written by Merle and was released in July 1968 as the first single and title track from the Mama Tried vinyl record album.

This song is one of eight #1 songs that Merle recorded between 1966 and 1969.

The song was written by Merle as he tried to focus on the pain and suffering he caused his mother due to his incarceration at San Quentin prison in 1957. Many country music fans could agree that a song like this could still find an audience today, as it has as much passion and depth as anything Merle Haggard ever recorded.

How many of us listening to this song can look back and say "If I had only listened to my Mama?" I'm sure Merle Haggard had that in the back of his mind when he wrote this sad song.


Mama Tried Lyrics
Life without Parole...Really?

Mama Tried Merle Haggard vinyl record memories from 1968.

Nobody but Merle Haggard could make you feel the hurt of having been taken from your home and living life behind bars.

Through his songwriting he always seemed to take you with him and make you feel the hurt he has experienced.

I do believe the song's lyrics are heavily influenced by Haggard's early life but it should be noted that although Merle was incarcerated in San Quentin, he was never sentenced to "Life without Parole" as was written in the song.

The song became one of the cornerstone songs of his career. The song won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.

The video below with Merle's rare intro shares life as he knew it back when he was young talking about his Mama and the hard times she faced. When you hear a purist talk about music not being "real" anymore, it’s a Merle Haggard song like this that they point to.


Mama Tried Lyrics
Written and recorded by
Merle Haggard, 1968

The first thing I remember knowing...
Was a lonesome whistle blowing...

And a young un's dream of growing up to ride...
On a freight train leaving town...Not knowing where I'm bound...

No-one could change my mind but Mama tried...
One and only rebel child...From a family, meek and mild...

My Mama seemed to know what lay in store...
Despite all my Sunday learning...

Towards the bad...I kept on turning...
'Til Mama couldn't hold me anymore...

And I turned twenty-one in prison...doing life without parole...
No-one could steer me right but Mama tried... Mama tried...

Mama tried to raise me better...but her pleading I denied...
That leaves only me to blame 'cos Mama tried...

Instrumental break.

Dear old Daddy...rest his soul...Left my Mom a heavy load...
She tried so very hard to fill his shoes...

Working hours without rest...Wanted me to have the best...
She tried to raise me right but I refused...

And I turned twenty-one in prison...doing life without parole...
No-one could steer me right but Mama tried...Mama tried...

Mama tried to raise me better...but her pleading I denied...
That leaves only me to blame...'cos Mama tried.


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Return to Merle Haggard Main Page.

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