Country singer Merle Haggard, whose career included more than 30 No. 1 songs and who had a profound influence on the genre, has passed away.
Mr. Haggard was the originator of songs such as “Sing Me Back Home”, “Mama Tried” and “Okie From Muskogee”. Among many other awards, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and received the Crystal Milestone Award from the Academy of Country Music.
Haggard has often been praised for his songwriting.
“Merle Haggard has always been as deep as he gets,” Bob Dylan said of the singer in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2009. “Totally himself. Herculean. Even too tall for Mount Rushmore. No superficiality to his sound. Subject: He definitely transcends the If Merle had attended Sun Studio in Memphis in the 1950s, Sam Phillips would have made him a rock and roll star, one of the best.
Haggard also played guitar and violin. He released his first album, “Strangers”, in 1965 and was extremely prolific thereafter, with other works including “Same Train, A Different Time”, “It’s All in the Movies” and “It’s All in the Game “.
He has also released collaboration albums with artists such as Willie Nelson and George Jones.
His songs touched on themes like poverty, love issues and those struggling in all aspects of life. He has been credited with helping popularize the “Bakersfield” style of country music, which was inspired by rock ‘n’ roll, among other elements.
“It’s hard to say what country music would be like without him,” New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich wrote of the musician. “He was an ancestor – along with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and a dozen others – of what is now called the outlaw country… Haggard possessed – could sublimate – savagery then largely unknown (it was at least long invisible) in country music.
Tributes from fellow stars arrived as news of his passing spread, The Associated Press reports.
“We have lost one of the greatest writers and singers of all time. His heart was as tender as his love ballads. I loved him like a brother. Rest easy, Merle.” – Dolly parton.
“We’ve played a lot of gigs together over the years, but some of my best memories were in a natural setting, like when we sat by the river in his garden and ate bolognese sandwiches. Merle was a simple man with incredible talent like no other. ” – Tanya tucker.
“No one sang better or with more heart than Merle Haggard. It was an honor to spend time and share the stage with him on so many occasions. Merle had a special way of making everyone around of him feels like a friend after little time with him. ” – Neal mccoy.