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Watch Dierks Bentley Cover Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’ at Tribute

Dierks Bentley celebrated Christmas in April earlier this month: The country star paid tribute to Merle Haggard with a cover of his 1973 hit “If We Make it Through December” at the Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard tribute concert on Thursday (April 6). Click play above to watch Bentley and company perform the not-so-festive ballad that became one of Haggard’s trademark songs.

Originally released in 1973 as the first single off of Haggard’s Christmas-themed album Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present, “If We Make It Through December” is decidedly not a traditional holiday tune; rather, the song focuses more on the themes of unemployment and loneliness than the traditional festivity and merriment of the season. In the song, Haggard uses his characteristically simple and straightforward writing style to tell the story of a working-class man dealing with economic hardship in the middle of the Christmas season: “My little girl don’t understand why Daddy can’t afford no Christmas here … If we make it through December, everything’s gonna be alright.”

Along with Bentley’s solo performance of “If We Make It Through December,” nearly 30 other artists helped pay tribute to “the Hag” during Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard, which took place on what would have been Haggard’s 80th birthday — and was the one-year anniversary of his death — at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. From longtime collaborator and good friend Willie Nelson‘s performance of the duo’s classic “Pancho and Lefty” with Kenny Chesney to Miranda Lambert singing “Misery and Gin,” the event was a striking tribute to the legacy of one of country music’s greatest songwriters and performers.

Other artists who took the stage to honor Haggard during Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard included Jake Owen, Chris Janson, John Mellencamp, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow and Loretta Lynn. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefited the TJ Martell Foundation.

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