Haggard, Merle - Kern River Lyrics

I'll never swim Kern River again
It was there that I met her
It was there that I lost my best friend
And now I live in the mountains
I drifted up here with the wind
And I may drown in still water
But I'll never swim Kern River again

I grew up in an oil town
But my gusher never came in
And the river was a boundary
Where my darlin' and I used to swim
One night in the moonlight
The swiftness swept her life away
And now I live on Lake Shasta
And Lake Shasta is where I will stay

There's the South San Joaquin
Where the seeds of the dust bowl are found
And there's a place called Mount Whitney
From where the mighty Kern River comes down
Well, it's not deep nor wide
But it's a mean piece of water my friend
And I may cross on the highway
But I'll never swim Kern River again

I'll never swim Kern River again
It was there I first met her
It was there that I lost my best friend
And now I live in the mountains
I drifted up here with the wind
And I may drown in still water
But I'll never swim Kern River again

I'll never swim Kern River again
It was there I first met her
It was there that I lost my best friend
Now I live in the mountains
I drifted up here with the wind
And I may cross on the highway
But I'll never swim Kern River again

Other Lyrics by Artist

Rand Lyrics

Haggard, Merle Kern River Comments
  1. Barry McCockener

    that river will take your life, stay the fuck out!!!

  2. Mark Richards

    78 people need to get a grip. How do you give this a thumbs down?

  3. Ben Marly

    In case anyone still watching. I live on the river and it has almost 300 deaths :(

  4. Granny Stout

    My favorite

  5. John Galt

    who was playing with merle?

  6. JoAnn A Halaby

    Porter was absolutely right!!!!

  7. timacosby

    i can't say who it was with merles record company that kept saying he didn't like that kern river song. merle finally said you know that's twice you said you didn't like kern river. the guy said it was actually 3 times he said it. merle said well i'm about 3 times behind on telling you to kiss my ass.

  8. errol1234

    we are looking at the best there ever was in Country.

  9. gorutra

    Earl Campbell brought me here . He sang it at the end of his bio.

  10. Ms. Lou

    Kern River has a special place in my heart and many good memories of camping by the river with family and friends in the mid to late 1950’s. We younger ones would swim or boat out to this large rock with a wind up record player and listen to music for many hours. Living in Louisiana we made our last trip to Kern River when my dad passed away in Lake Isabella,Ca. That large rock was still standing but the river had shrunk through the years. I guess due to the drought in Ca. As I listen to Merle Haggard sing this song as well His last song Kern River Blues , memories sure flow through my mind and heart.

  11. James Miller

    I hate lousy swimmers😂

  12. Darin Rolfe

    My god that was beautiful.

  13. Maxie Pattie

    So Amazing

    I just love his buddy man
    Them eyes, he'd take a bullet for mer

  14. Mr. Wizard

    Merle sings in such a relaxed manner its almost as if he is chatting with you!

  15. John Ellis

    That is the most powerful song ever performed at any talk show i have ever heard . Merle you are on top of a mountain all by yourself when it comes to writing music . The good Lord gave us a masterpiece and now he gets to enjoy his fine work of art R. I . P.

  16. bry3921

    porter was right

  17. Serenity Walker

    Listen to his last. Song

  18. Chris White

    They just updated the sign. 298 souls have died in the Kern River since 1968.

  19. Mary Smith


  20. William Tyson

    They don’t get any better than Merle Haggard.

  21. sam harris

    Porter Wagoner gave Merle Haggard a great complement, and Merle puts his head down! A sign of humbleness! I have seen Merle give credit to people that deserved it , and that have helped his singing career. That's why Merle was great! His songs were only secondary to making him the real person he was.

  22. World Famous Jokey and Pismo Show


  23. Robert Vandick

    Kern river is one of the bredt of all time.

  24. Proud American

    Porter NAILED IT! No better male voice than Merle Haggard! In any genre! Sorry Frank!

  25. Marlene Sullivan


  26. VA HOSS

    A dangerous man with a song..... wasn't that the truth
    Merle Haggard and Marty Robbins were the greatest story tellers in music history, IMO.... and ole Freddy Powers was pretty good to

  27. Pamela Pettit-holt

    I found a friend in this song. I love the mighty kern, my own brother is buried along the waters edge. I never got to shake hags hand yet I knew him through his music. Merle belonged to us all, the same way we all own Mount Rushmore, and the Vietnam memorial, he was ours like the Pacific Ocean and Times Square. Each time I visit the kern valley I visit my brothers grave. But no matter where I go I always hum this beautiful song. Was a sad sad day when Merle died, yet we all are better Americans, better fathers, and better men for knowing him.

    Robert Stroud

    What Merle and everyone else from that time in space stood for  is long dead and gone. You are watching the crumbling of usa right in front of your eyes. It is over. Been goin' on forever. The late 80s, seat belt laws, then smoking laws ( I'm a non smoker), everything a caucasion does is a hate crime, search and seizure rights LONG GONE, raiding homes with no warrant, murdering people, it goes on. Merle, Waylon, Willie, Johnny Paycheck, Joe Stampley, Freddie Fender, hell, remember when everything wasn't a police state? Remember when you could dance at a concert without being kicked out for dancing?

  28. 1mtnrailway Fortner

    One of my favorites, by one of my favorites.

  29. Wendell Stafford

    Only Merle could sit down with a guitar and sing such beautiful song.

  30. 0341 CORPORAL

    You said it Mr. Wagoner.

  31. Hmbldzy99

    This guys fucks me up. Pure truth. Amazing. I thank God, if any, that I lived long enough to discover Merle. American Gold.


    One of the best versions of one of his best songs ever!!!

  33. Farmall

    over 14 people drowned in Kern River in 2017

  34. Tearyatobitz

    I almost died in that damn river!

  35. Riley Carithers

    love this style of country music

  36. Gallardo Alex

    This song really made me realize Bakersfield was my home.. no matter where I went


    Gallardo Alex Ive been gone 28 years, but still my hometown. Damn, Merle could sing, so gooood here!

  37. bamaslaten

    Smooth like melted butter.

  38. jeff young


  39. Carlos Soto-Gomez

    Thus tune with The Hag’s acoustic was very deep!

  40. Kraig Horlacher

    Merle haggard kern river

  41. Bob Willingson

    One of my favorites by Merle

  42. Smootman1

    Merle didn't need a band to be amazing.

  43. softail springer

    Oh Merle, how great you were...

  44. Terry Boren

    Isn’t there something about Merle that you can’t put your finger on. Sweet rendition.

    Charles Allen

    I'm thinking the same. I think it's the voice. My wife detest Country music wont compliment anyone, until I played Merle Haggard for her. She stopped in her tracks and said wow.. this guy has a very soothing voice.

  45. Ronald Pittman

    Honesty, hearts an open book. brings a tear around. I saw the light was once said. close friends. God Bless

  46. Talkin Bout Nawlins

    51 dislikes=Bunch o nashvegas country garth brooks lovin assholes.R.I.P. MR POWERS

  47. Dot King Ardoin.

    Beautiful true song.

  48. Lodie Porter

    Wish just one "country" music singer today would step out and make his mark on real country music like Merle and others in his day were so brave to do. So tired of hearing these guys singing about highschool days, girls wearing cutoffs, drinking beer, old dirt roads and humping their tractors. Somebody MAN-UP.  Miranda did.  Lodie

  49. Jon Kiparsky

    the mathematician Paul Erdos used to talk about "the book", where all the truly great proofs were found. "That's one from the book" he'd say about a proof that was up to the very highest standards.
    This song is truly "one from the book".

  50. Shon C

    Such a great musican. He is so missed

  51. Don Fawcett

    Man is a complete musical genius. Very few people in the world could write a song that good .

  52. Kolby Wyatt

    keeping outlaw country alive

  53. Mark Tate

    Who is the blonde gal next to Freddy, I could not make her out?

  54. patrick fontes

    The River is taking many lives this year, 2017

  55. Karen Jones

    there are 42 dislikes how n the hell.my dad always told me don't trust man who don't like hagg its been a good piece of advice!!!!

  56. Mike Liggett

    Some times God puts people on this earth who can argue with this man

  57. Mike Liggett

    that his one cool cat

  58. bougie agawa

    one of my fav!!! :)

  59. Danny Hollander

    Merle Haggard is the greatest country singing star that ever was.


    Hall of Famer


    35 Idiots didn't like this?


    Merle and Freddie actually the guitar, most of the country singers now days just strum the guitar. It is so refreshing just to listen to them play the guitar.

  63. Seth Walston

    i grew up in the same oiltown Oildale California i still swin Kern River

  64. Charles Williams

    Rest in Peace Merle. What chord was he playing at 1.49 of recording

    Charles Williams

    Thanks, i didn't stop to think about that.

  65. Dan Nájera

    One of the saddest songs ever.
    And what is even more touching is the humbleness of Merle that we see at the end of this clip, when Porter gives him that huge compliment. That probably meant a lot to him. You were one of the great ones Merle. Your songs will always touch all the restless and hurt souls out there.

  66. bubu joo Estes

    OMG it is such a nostalgic feeling to hear my favourite country music singer again.His voice is so sweet melodic well balanced and brings out all the emotions that makes me want to cry.I also love Dolly Parton Rascal Flats Charlie pride Jim Reaves but Mere was always my favourite. He sang so effortlessly and yet so beautifully. Gone too soon but RIP Mere.

  67. Dai Beech

    we have lost a great artist....

  68. Karen Jones

    RIP Freddy and Merle. Such a humble man, Merle was.....his good friend Freddy looked over at Merle after Porter gave him a wonderful compliment,,,just Freddy's look tells you how Merle still has trouble accepting such accolades,,,,I don't think Merle knew just how awesome he was,,,he dang sure didn't go around acting like it as so many others have and do now! Freddy was extremely talented himself!

  69. ben Whoisthis

    Rest in peace Freddy Powers!

  70. Mike C.

    No producing required. Wow....

  71. oldricky

    RIP Merle

  72. messid74

    I agree this is the best version of this tune I've heard yet.

  73. Sean Crowe

    Many thanks again for this beautiful piece of video of this special artist.

  74. clappersox

    Magnificent! Wonderful performance and songwriting, and the best version I've heard him sing!

  75. headshrink1

    Thanks for sharing. This is a great live tape of Kern River!

  76. Fairon Snow

    porter said it all

  77. Lance Bishop

    A few days in my life that I will willingly admit i cried openly. When my son was born, my wedding day, the day Dale Earnhardt died. Now I will add the day I heard Mr.. Haggard passed away. My dad is in an Alzhiemers care facility & he is the one I can credit with turning me to the country side as a young man. One of the artists he always played in his freight truck was Merle Haggard. Whenever I hear his voice today I think of my dad. Mr. Haggard, thank you for the memories of both you & my dad. May you rest in peace sir. Kern River is the song I always go to in my mind when I think of Mr. Haggard and it will be the song that takes me to my dad once he is gone.

    Robert Stroud

    My mom turned me on to everybody from Porter Wagner to George Clinton. I'm getting ready to put her in a home because she has dementia. My prayers and warm thoughts are with you.Music is The Creator speaking to us. He chooses select few to be his voice. Merle is a piece of That voice.

    Kevin Miller

    @Robert Stroud Who's Geor ge Clinton?

    Robert Stroud

    George Clinton is a piece of God masquerading around as a black hippy

    Kevin Miller

    @realist 2020 Willie's still wit h us.

    realist 2020

    @Kevin Miller yes I am aware of that...I was referring to mearl...and willie hasn't been doing well for quite some time...✌

  78. Corene Cipolletti

    listening from Bakersfield tonight...

  79. Greg Jones

    RIP Merle! You're the best!!

  80. Ann Roche

    rip Merl Haggard loved your music.

  81. JGNM1589

    Jesus, that's a beautiful song.

    April 6th, Merle Haggard Day. National holiday whether they declare it or not.

    Mr. Wizard

    May 29 us Wade Hayes Day

  82. Brian B

    Buck and Merle put the Western back in Country and Western. I'm the west coast descendant of a Dust Bowl Oakie, and I love the Bakersfield Sound. Rest in Peace, Hag, and say hello to Buck for us.

  83. Andrew Jolley

    My favorite Country artist. RIP Merle...you'll be missed by many

  84. Mike Franks

    I swam in Kern River many times.  Born and raised in Ridgecrest, CA (in Kern County).

    J G

    Mike Franks It’s always people from LA who drown

  85. washboard ditties

    Gotta just say that sometimes I get so caught up in how good Merle's songs are and how clearly he delivers them that I fail to acknowledge just how fantastic his voice is. This performance truly highlights that. R.I.P.--Mr. Haggard. Many will miss you!

    Thomas Murphy

    not a great artist. No the greatest artist there's ever been

  86. Marty Belton

    AWESOME! RIP HAG You are the man.

  87. josh p

    the greatest that ever lived

  88. Tacelli Time

    His voice is like hearing all your problems disappearing ..... This beers for you Hag, you will be missed sir!

  89. XxJustinXx88

    R.I.P Merle Haggard! The Greatest!

  90. Daniel L

    The GREAT Merle Haggard  . The man , the myth , the legend . The best there is and the best there ever will be . R.I.P.

  91. Half Pint Hacks

    Rest in peace, Merle Haggard. <3

  92. Jose Perez

    R.I.P Merle my favorite song of his , grew up in Arvin , Ca. and I still swim in that river we locals call killer kern

  93. Greg Mirr

    "A mean piece of water my friend" ...merle i believe every word  when you say " i drifted up here with the wind"   RIP today you drifted off with the wind..

  94. A Winspeed

    Rest in peace Merle.. I can remember him playing on the dock at Lake Shasta's Lakeview Marina when I was a young boy... Great memories. Sad day...

  95. Barbara Hoefle

    My favorite Merle Haggard song...he'll never swim Kern River again...RIP Merle

  96. kasey dey

    RIP Merle.... what a legend.. I love this version of this song

  97. Greg Presley

    Simply Amazing, RIP Merle