Country music icon Merle Haggard has died …
It is with incredible sadness to announce that country music icon Merle Haggard has passed away at the age of 79. Wow, this one hits close to home. I grew up on listening to the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr. as my parents played the 8-track tapes over and over. Yes Millennials, 8-track tapes, Google it. There were just so many songs to like from country great Merle Haggard, The Tennessean has provided 15 songs that defined a legendary career. Rest in Peace Merle.
Okie From Muskogee
Merle Haggard, one of the most successful singers in the history of country music, a contrarian populist whose songs about his scuffling early life and his time in prison made him the closest thing that the genre had to a real-life outlaw hero, died at his ranch in Northern California on Wednesday, his 79th birthday.
His death was confirmed by his agent, Lance Roberts. Mr. Haggard had recently canceled several concerts, saying he had double pneumonia.
Few country artists have been as popular and widely admired as Mr. Haggard, a ruggedly handsome performer who strode onto a stage, guitar in hand, as a poet of the common man. Thirty-eight of his singles, including “Workin’ Man Blues” and the 1973 recession-era lament “If We Make It Through December,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard country chart from 1966 to 1987. He released 71 Top 10 country hits in all, 34 in a row from 1967 to 1977. Seven of his singles crossed over to the pop charts.
More from The NY Times:
Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937, in Oildale, Calif. His first years were spent in the abandoned boxcar that his father, James, a railroad carpenter, had converted into a home for his family. James Haggard died of a stroke in 1946, after which Mr. Haggard’s mother, the former Flossie Mae Harp, a strict and pious member of the ultraconservative Church of Christ, took a bookkeeping job to provide for her three children.
Sing Me Back Home
From Billboard Magazine – Merle Haggard on Death: ‘Sometimes I Fear It and Other Times It Calls to Me Like a Forgotten Dream’ (Exclusive):
Merle wanted to be seen the way he was.
“Wrote a tune not long called ‘I Am What I Am,’” he said, “that sums me up pretty damn good. Song says, “I believe Jesus is God and a pig is just ham…I’m a seeker, I’m a sinner, and I am what I am.”
Seated in an easy chair in the living room of his modest home, he discussed a recent operation that removed a cancer from his lung, the cancer that ultimately returned and took his life on April 6 at age 79.
“All this near-death stuff has me thinking that it’s time to reconcile all the many Merles. There’s Merle the daddy’s boy, the son of a railroad man. Then there’s the juvenile delinquent Merle who tore up more than one reform school, the Merle who spent a decade of hard time in prison, the Merle who had the guts to stand up in those Bakersfield barrooms imitating his idol Lefty Frizzell, the Merle who finally found his own voice and muddled his way through show business. And most devilishly complicated of all, the Merle of four marriages.”
Darkness fell. Merle grew quiet. He slipped in a DVD of his favorite preacher, Dr. Gene Scott, who spoke of eternal life. When the sermon ended, I asked Merle whether he feared death.
“Sometimes I fear it,” he said, “and other times it calls to me like a forgotten dream or an old song. I’m not saying I welcome it, but I recognize it as part of a holy process. Born of nature, return to nature. Maybe that’s the name of my last song.