Country music legend Merle Haggard died last Wednesday, April 6th, on the day of his 79th birthday. His death, due to complications of pneumonia, is a big one on a long list of legends leaving this world in 2016.
Haggard recorded over 30 #1 hits in a span of 6 decades, from 1960 to 2010. He overcame an early life of crime, and a prison sentence, to become one of the most famous outsider-type musicians in the world, known for his rugged, working man style.
Haggard’s most famous songs were about working and playing hard, and he not only sang about this lifestyle, he lived it. He partied (and sang) with Willie Nelson, was married 5 times, and was known to have struggled with drugs and alcohol. Songs like “I think I’ll just stay here and drink”, and “The Fugitive” told his life story.
During the height of both the Vietnam War protests and the Hippie Movement, Haggard wondered what these kids were complaining about while soldiers were risking their lives across the world, leading to his most famous song, “Okie from Muskogee”.
He never stopped playing music, and there are rumors of hundreds of unreleased songs he left behind. His health started to deteriorate, causing him to cancel tours, but it didn’t keep him from writing or playing new material.
According to Rolling Stone Magazine, the funeral, pre-planned by Haggard himself, was privately held outdoors at his ranch in California. It was filled with performances by his friends and collaborators, including Kris Kristofferson, Connie Smith, Ronnie Reno, and Marty Stuart.
When a gust of wind scattered papers with song lyrics on it, Kristofferson smiled, and said “Merle’d done that on purpose.” The funeral closed with Haggard’s 3 sons, who sang their father’s song “Today I Started Loving You Again”.
According to his son’s facebook post, Haggard predicted he would die on his birthday. It’s no surprise the country rebel went out on his own terms. There’s no doubt he will be missed by family, friends, and fans alike, but the legacy he left behind is immortal.