Remembering Merle Haggard: The Fightin’ Side

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“Even when success eluded him, Haggard’s music remained some of the most consistently interesting and inventive in country music. Not only have his recordings remained fresh, but each subsequent generation of country singers shows a great debt to his work. That fact stands as a testament to his great talent even more than his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

America lost a true country music legend today; Merle Haggard passed away on April 6, 2016, on his 79th birthday.

According to CMT Artists, Merle was one of a kind:

As a performer, singer, and musician, he was one of the best — influencing countless other artists. Not coincidentally, he was the best singer/songwriter in country music since Hank Williams, writing a body of songs that became classics. Throughout his career, Haggard has been a champion of the working man, largely due to his rough and tumble history. He was later one of the regular “Country Music Outlaws”.

As a performer and a songwriter, Merle Haggard was the most important country artist to emerge in the 1960s, and he became one of the leading figures of the Bakersfield country scene in the ’60s. While his music remained hardcore country, he pushed the boundaries of the music quite far. Like his idol, Bob Wills, his music was a melting pot that drew from all forms of traditional American music — country, jazz, blues, and folk — and in the process, developed a distinctive style of his own.

Growing up during the Great Depression Era, living a hard life, and going through many tribulations of his own, Haggard grew some very thick skin. When he was nine years old, he lost his father to a brain tumor. At that impressionable age, he became very rebellious and ended up in a lot of trouble throughout his youth. In his twenties, he served a prison sentence for robbery. During his incarceration at San Quentin, he learned that his wife was pregnant with another man’s child, which sent him over the edge. Ending up in isolation in prison, he experienced some life changes. He worked hard in the prison textile plant to get an early release.

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