Merle Haggard has died after a series of recent health struggles. The legendary singer passed away on April 6, 2016, which was also his 79th birthday.
Haggard canceled tour dates in December of 2015 after he checked into a hospital and learned he had double pneumonia. In an interview later with Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM, he said he was “nearly dead” when he was hospitalized for two weeks. He canceled shows scheduled for Jan. 30 and 31 after his double pneumonia returned. At the end of March, the legend announced he was canceling all of his scheduled shows for April on doctor’s orders.
According to Country Aircheck, Haggard had been in hospice care recently. The country icon’s manager, Frank Mull, reveals that he died of pneumonia at 9:20AM on Wednesday (April 6) in Palo Cedro, California.
Haggard was born Merle Ronald Haggard in 1937 just outside of Bakersfield, Calif., a town that he would help make famous with his revolutionary sound. His family struggled financially throughout his childhood, living in an old converted boxcar after their home burned down. After Haggard’s father died when he was 9, he turned rebellious, hopping a freight train to Fresno and getting picked up by the authorities when he was just 10, according to his official biography. He was in and out of reform schools and deemed “incorrigible,” and ended up in and out of jail as a young adult, culminating in a stretch in prison when he was 20 years old.
Haggard began to take music seriously while in prison at San Quentin, where he was on hand for the Johnny Cash performance that was captured for the iconic live album At San Quentin.
I first became aware of Merle Haggard in my first year in college, when we California half-hippie type kids would sing along with "Okie from Muskogee" at the top of our lungs thinking we were making fun of him. Ironically it was the Grateful Dead's cover of "Mama Tried" that turned me around.