In Memoriam: Merle Haggard, 1937-2016

Merle Haggard died on Wednesday at age 79.

Juli Thanki writes for The Tennessean:

Over the length of his half-century career, Mr. Haggard recorded 38 No. 1 country singles and wrote some of the genre’s most revered classics, which have been recorded by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, The Byrds, Vince Gill, The Grateful Dead and countless others.

Merle Haggard‘s reach knew no bounds,” said Jay Orr, a historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Orr also noted that Mr. Haggard so embodied country music that the museum’s core exhibit, “Sing Me Back Home,” takes its title from a chart-topping song he released in 1968.

Mr. Haggard’s life, which took him from a San Quentin prison cell to the Country Music Hall of Fame, was a truly American success story.

“In some ways, his life sounds like fiction, but if it were fiction, no one would believe it,” said Harris on the night of his Hall of Fame induction.

Merle Haggard I Am What I AmThanki’s piece is the strongest one I’ve seen covering Haggard’s life and impact. Aside from Willie Nelson, there isn’t another man in country music in the same league of Haggard who still walks the earth today. The ones who come close – Alan Jackson and Randy Travis – owe him a debt for a good chunk of their sound and songwriting.

Here are some Haggard highlights from the Country Universe archives:

100 Greatest Men: #1. Merle Haggard

Album Review: Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson, Django & Jimmie

Forgotten Misses: Merle Haggard, “In My Next Life”

Say What? – Merle Haggard

In the coming days, I’ll be sharing my favorite songs of Haggard’s, and Leeann will share her favorite covers of Merle Haggard songs.

Please use this thread to share your favorite Haggard songs, stories, concerts and the like.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t think it would be too far-fetched to say that losing Merle, even at the age of 79, is fairly cataclysmic for the genre. There could only ever have been one of him; and with his passing, that pretty much leaves Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson as the keepers of the flame from that particular era (mid-1960s through to the start of 1990s). The list of songs he wrote and recorded, and which have become integral parts of the modern American songbook, country or otherwise, would probably stretch a hundred miles long–and a fairly diverse group of artists have covered those songs, including Dean Martin (“I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am”); the Grateful Dead (“Mama Tried”) and Linda Ronstadt (“Silver Wings”, which she did with the Earl Scruggs Revue in 1971). And setting aside whatever sentiments there are in “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side Of Me”, Merle had his admirers on the rock and roll side of the fence as well.

    He was a true American original, and here’s hoping he’s up there in honky-tonk heaven still keeping on.

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