Merle Haggard Laments “Are the Good Times Really Over” As He Reflects On Simpler Times

ByQuyen Anne

Apr 15, 2024

In 1982, Merle Haggard released his third single, “Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver),” from his thirty-third studio album backed by The Strangers, Big City. This was one of the two songs off the 12-track LP he had written all by himself, with the other one being “My Favorite Memory.” This was also his first album under Epic after his five-year run with MCA Records.

The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and grabbed the number-one position on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.

Meaning Behind the Song

For four minutes and fourteen seconds, the country legend reflects on the changes in society in his lifetime, expressing his nostalgia for the simpler and better times in the past. In each verse, he mentions pop culture topics. Let’s break them down.

Merle Haggard opens the first verse, singing, “I wish a buck was still silver / It was back when the country was strong.” Adam Ozimek of Forbes shared what he felt the outlaw artist meant by this, saying, “I take this as a general complaint about the quickly eroding value of a dollar in the highly inflationary environment of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Merle didn’t want a silver dollar, he wanted low inflation.”

He then went on to mention how good life was before Elvis Presley, the Vietnam War, and the Beatles and their song “Yesterday.” Elvis was (and still is) an icon of that era, the war was a time of deadly conflict that claimed the lives of over 200,000 US military soldiers, and the Beatles’ “Yesterday” marked the watershed of popular music. And life was so good that anyone who wanted to work could do so because there were opportunities.

He then cuts into the refrain, “Is the best of the free life behind us now? / And are the good times really over for good?” And then, in the chorus, he laments, asking if they were headed for hell like a snowball with no chance for Liberty Bell. He also wished that a Ford and Chevy could last ten years.

For the second verse, he sang how he wished coke didn’t mean anything other than Coca-Cola and that a girl could still cook – and still would.

The song progressed with Haggard alternately repeating the refrain and chorus. Along with the nostalgic tone was a sense of resignation that the past he spoke of could no longer be reclaimed. But he still held out hope in the outro as he sang, “’Cause the best of the free life is still yet to come. And the good times ain’t over for good.”

Catch Merle Haggard’s “Are the Good Times Really Over” in the video below. Listen to more of Merle Haggard’s songs here.

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