Merle has looked pretty haggard for years. And, alas, Wednesday he succumbed to illness on his 79th birthday. Not in Muskogee, Oklahoma, but in California. (Merle wasn’t born in the city he made famous, but near Bakersfield, California, where his Oklahoman family had fled during the Great Depression to escape Dust Bowl miseries.) If God is a country music fan, which I am convinced He is, Haggard’s reward will be substantial.
A tip of the cowboy hat (though Merle himself seemed to prefer feed-store baseball caps over Stetsons) to Aaron Goldstein for his earlier tribute to Haggard. Aaron is right to celebrate Haggard’s patriotic songs and his “outlaw” music that set him apart from the standard and more slick Nashville sound. Like so many country stars, Haggard lived his songs before he wrote and sang them. In his early years, the eventual “outlaw” singer did appear to be studying for the gallows. Happily, he finally decided on singing over safe-cracking.
Merle was also very good on more traditional country songs. Please enjoy one of my favorites here, Merle and the Queen of Country, Tammy Wynette, doing one of Merle’s own songs, “Today I Started Loving You Again.” This 1988 concert took place in Wembley, a neighborhood in northwest London. (Some may be surprised, though I’m not, that country music is popular in England.)
RIP, country boy. Thanks for the music.