Merle Haggard was the genius behind the prison song, “Sing Me Back Home”. It was released in November 1967 as the first single and title track from the album Sing Me Back Home. It was Haggard’s third number one hit. The single spent two weeks at number one and a total of 17 weeks on the country chart.

About This Song

In his early life, Haggard spent three years at San Quentin State Prison in California for his role in a failed robbery. That may be the reason why he wrote many songs about prison.

“Sing Me Back Home” was inspired by Haggard’s relationships with two fellow inmates, Caryl Chessman and James Rabbit. Chessman was the first modern American executed for a non-lethal kidnapping. James “Rabbit” Kendrick, was executed in 1961 for killing a California Highway Patrolman after escaping from prison.

The song is the story of an inmate at a state penitentiary, who is being led towards the death chamber. The inmate made a last request from the warden to allow his friend to play the last song for him. As the song is played, he remembers the church choir who passed by the prison a week ago. A member of the choir remembers a song that brings back the memory of her mother. The prisoner has caught up that picture that he wants to bring back feeling as well, as he sings “Sing Me Back Home”.

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Lyric

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The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom
I stood up to say good-bye like all the rest
And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell
“Let my guitar playing friend do my request.” (Let him…)Sing me back home with a song I used to hear
Make my old memories come alive
Take me away and turn back the years
Sing Me Back Home before I dieI recall last Sunday morning a choir from off the street
Came in to sing a few old gospel songs
And I heard him tell the singers “There’s a song my mama sang
Could I hear it once before you move along?”

Sing me back home, the song my mama sang
Make my old memories come alive
Take me away and turn back the years
Sing Me Back Home before I die

Sing Me Back Home before I die