This year has been a wretched year for musician deaths. Now comes the news that Merle Haggard has died as well, and on his 79th birthday.
Haggard had been battling pneumonia since last year and died at his home in Redding, California, reports TMZ.
The "Okie From Muskogee" singer was famed for his Bakersfield country sound, the California equivalent of sorts to Texas' outlaw country. This was fitting because he and Willie Nelson were longtime partners in crime. Last year the pair released an album together, Django and Jimmie, and went on a brief tour of the Midwest.
Haggard was scheduled to perform at Choctaw Casino in Durant on June 17, but had recently been forced to cancel a series of shows due to his illness. His second-to-last performance in North Texas, appropriately enough, came at Billy Bob's on the 4th of July last year. (His final was at Gas Monkey Live! in November.) In her review of the Billy Bob's show, Amy McCarthy had this to say of Haggard:
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As he played through his standards, including “Pancho & Lefty” and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” that enthusiasm remained. This set did include a few songs that Haggard didn’t play on his last trip through Fort Worth, most notably 1969’s “Silver Wings,” arguably one of Haggard’s best heartbreaking love songs. As he wound down his set, making sure to play “Mama Tried,” it was easy to realize that seeing Haggard is always a pleasure, and we are lucky that he’s still out on the road, still making music and still being the same crotchety outlaw he always was.
You can also read the interview that Kelly Dearmore did with Haggard back in 2012 right here.