Merle Haggard

Why is Merle always third in the list? When people talk about country legends, it's always Johnny Cash, then Willie Nelson, then Merle Haggard. Hell, his body of work is just as impressive in historical scope and musical significance; his sly and wise hobo persona has never overshadowed ballads as perfect as "Silver Wings" and "Sing Me Back Home" or such hardheaded hokum as "Okie from Muskogee" or "The Fightin' Side of Me." Even in his later years, Haggard's world-weary baritone continues to impress. Unlike many aged country legends, he shows up and delivers both hits and misses, robustly picking from a canon of songs that tell the story of post-World War II America as unapologetically and patriotically as anyone alive. In his case, third is pretty damn good.


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