Merle Haggard Died the Day He Was Born
In what’s shaping up to be a brutal year for the world of music, 2016 was dealt yet another blow today with the death of outlaw country legend, Merle Haggard. Today was his 79th birthday.
Merle Haggard was a thief, a drunk and a genuine son of a bitch. But more than anything he was one of a small group of men and women who saved country music from the over-produced, rhinestone-studded sound and scene coming out of Nashville in the 1950s.
Haggard’s influence on the outlaw country sound, one steeped in drugs, booze and rebellion, is hard to overstate.
Not only did he turn out over three dozen #1 hits between 1966 and 1987, but unlike many of the musicians associated with the outlaw sound, he lived the life he sang about.
Since his first arrest at age 11, Haggard had a hard time staying out of trouble with the law. He ended up in Bakersfield Jail after trying to rob a roadhouse and drunkenly failing to flee the scene. At 21, a botched escape from the jail earned him a 2-year stint at the infamous San Quentin State Prison.
As the story goes, Haggard was in the crowd of inmates for Johnny Cash’s first of many prison performances. He credits that show as the inspiration for joining the prison’s country music band and, to a some extent, ending a decade of frequent incarceration.
Over the next 50 years, he wrote and played songs that influenced the whole of American music.
Tonight was scheduled to be the first show of his tour with friend and fellow legend, Willie Nelson.
In memory, I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass or burning one down for the crook and the thief who loved his mother and hated the police. Here’s to you, Merle.