Merle Haggard is one of the most intriguing and mercurial characters not just in country music but in all of popular music, and that's what PBS' "American Masters" series digs into in its latest entry, "Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself."
The 83-minute documentary, filmed over a three-year period by co-producer and director Gandulf Hennig, premieres at 9 p.m Wednesday. It's a richly detailed, impressively researched profile of the man who has written hundreds of songs over the last half century, including such contemporary country classics as "Okie From Muskogee," "The Fightin' Side of Me," "If We Make It Through December," "Mama Tried" and "Mama's Hungry Eyes."
The show benefits significantly from the candor Haggard unfailingly exhibits. He is blessed with the gift of being able to see life — his own and that which goes on around him — accurately yet nonjudgmentally, a trait that figures prominently into what has made his body of work so valuable.
Some two dozen additional interviewees — including Kris Kristofferson, Robert Duvall, Keith Richards, Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss, John Fogerty, both his ex-wives and several of his children — seem far more impressed with what the musician has done with the cards he was dealt than Haggard is.