Merle Haggard Dead at 79: We look back with Video tribute

Merle-HaggardMerle Haggard, Country Legend, Dead at 79

The country legend has passed after battling double pneumonia He died at home near Redding, CA this morning (April 6, 2016). His manager said the singer was weak from battling pneumonia for so long and even joked to his friends that he would die on his birthday – he did.

He wrote stories about the tough struggles, staying fed and healthy, finding meaning or a job. And his devil-may-care, rough and tumble take on love and heartache.

Haggard had 38 Number One country hits. He’s known for so many tunes including “Mama Tried,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and “Back to the Barrooms””I Am a Lonesome Fugitive,””Branded Man,” “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” and “Sing Me Back Home.”

He co-wrote his signature tune “Okie From Muskogee.”against anti-war pot-smoking hippies. It was sometimes known as a typical redneck ditty. Years later Haggard changed his tune saying, “I didn’t know anything about marijuana back then,” adding it’s “One of the most fantastic things in the world.”

Close friend Bob Dylan once said, “ If Merle had been around Sun Studio in Memphis in the Fifties, Sam Phillips would have turned him into a rock & roll star, one of the best.”

He was born April 6th, 1937 near Bakersfield, California. His father played the fiddle in their $500 boxcar home.

He was in reform school more than a dozen times as a teen for robbery, truancy, shoplifting and forgery.

In 1957 he tried to rob a cafe. He was sentenced to five years in San Quentin State Prison. He was encouraged to escape one night but some other inmates encouraged him to tough it out and concentrate on music. The escapee was executed after killing a guard during the escape.

Close friend Johnny cash encouraged Haggard to share his prison story.

Haggard always said it would have been much worse. He credits music for taming his beastly ways. One of his biggest compliments came when George Jones proclaimed Haggard his favorite country artist.

Haggard was married five times, won the Academy of Country Music’s Top Male Vocalist award four years in a row and was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. – by John Beaudin