WATCH: Cody Johnson Covers Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’

This song holds special significance for the country star and his wife, Brandi, as it resonates with a challenging period in their lives.

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

December 14, 2023

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Cody Johnson; Photo by Daniel Clark for CMT

Cody Johnson shared a poignant cover of Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” during his first-ever Christmas special, CMT Presents: A Cody Johnson Christmas.

This cover, which Johnson included on his Christmas album, A Cody Johnson Christmas, in 2021, is especially meaningful to the country star and his wife, Brandi, as it connects to a particularly difficult time in their lives. 

Johnson detailed the harrowing memories during the special and recalled how the Haggard song impacted him and Brandi early in their marriage during a time with they were “very broke.”

Merle Haggard Cover

YouTube video

“We went to my mom and dad’s house and I took $20 — I didn’t know this at the time, but it was our last $20 for the rest of the month,” he revealed, adding that the money was put inside a Christmas card. 

A Challenging Moment

He then learned that the money was all that they had left until the first of the month when his paycheck was set to arrive. 

“And I didn’t realize that,” the Texas native pointed out. “So here we are, I’ve got three-quarters of a tank of gas and that’s it, that’s all we had to our name. And we drove home and Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’ comes on the radio.” 

He continued, “Merle always had a way of making people cry, and in the truck, we both cried wondering how we were going to actually make it through December to the next year.”

Cody Johnson; Photo by Daniel Clark for CMT
Cody Johnson; Photo by Daniel Clark for CMT

The evening took an interesting turn of events when they arrived home. 

“For some reason, I checked the mail. I walked out to the end of the driveway and I checked the mail, and my first two songwriter checks from ASCAP came in, and they were $2500 apiece,” Johnson recalled. 

This moment brought the newlyweds to tears again. “And then we pushed the couch up close to the TV, and we heated up leftovers, and we watched It’s a Wonderful Life, and then we cried again.”

“If We Make It Through December”

This pivotal moment is why Johnson chose to cover Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December.” This song was released in 1973 and was written solely by Haggard himself. The song has since been covered by Alan Jackson, Joey + Rory, Marty Robbins, and more.  

Cody Johnson with his wife, Brandi, Daughters, Clara and Codi, mom, Sheila and dad, Carl; Photo by Daniel Clark for CMT
Cody Johnson with his wife, Brandi, Daughters, Clara and Codi, mom, Sheila and dad, Carl; Photo by Daniel Clark for CMT

CMT Presents: A Cody Johnson Christmas also featured performances of Christmas classics and holiday hits such as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Pretty Paper,” “Santa Claus is Back In Town,” “Christmas All Year Long,” “Away in a Manger,” and more. 

The special also featured appearances by Johnson’s wife, Brandi, his daughters Clara and Codi, as well as his mom, Sheila, and dad, Carl. Texas-born singer/songwriters Kevin Fowler and Roger Creager also joined the platinum-selling star during the show. 

How To Watch

CMT Presents: A Cody Johnson Christmas premiered on Wednesday, December 13th at 9p/8c on CMT. It is now available to stream on Paramount+. 

CMT’s Margaret Comeaux and Taillight TV’s Tom Forrest served as Executive Producers for CMT Presents: A Cody Johnson Christmas, while Jackie Barba and Heather D. Graffagnino were Executives in Charge of Production. Leslie Fram was the Executive in Charge of Talent

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.