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Thursday, 7 April 2016

Merle Haggard 6th April 1937 - 6th April 2016 R.I.P.

On the morning of his 79th Birthday the Great Country Outlaw Merle Haggard said goodbye to this world. He died of complications from pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California.

His life was pretty much like a Country Song and that gave him an authenticity and authority when it came to his own songwriting.  Think of any subject whether it be a bad life growing up, crime, going to jail, getting a Presidential pardon, marriage, divorce, getting drunk, spirituality, digging ditches, traveling the railroads, patriotism, freedom, politics, love, championing the working class, drugs, anti-war songs - they are all there in his vast catalogue of songs.

Between 1963-2015 he crafted 38 #1 Country Singles from his 82 singles, 47 studio albums, 16 Live albums. A number of the Studio albums were collaborations with his band The Strangers, George Jones, Leona Williams (he was married to her for five years), and of course that other Great Outlaw of Country Music, Willie Nelson. His last album was in fact with Willie Nelson, Django and Jimmie (released in June 2015). The title track was a tribute to the music of Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. The album also included their tribute to Johnny Cash, Missing Ol' Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice. It's Alright.

He was quite critical of a lot of Modern Country Music and as a result was not really given a lot of airplay on Country stations...though I bet today and the next few days they'll be acting like he was their greatest friend! I think old Merle would have got a kick out the Dixie Chicks (a band that he stood up for when they were getting a lot grief for being critical of President Bush) singing the Darrell Scott song 'Long Time Gone', especially the lines:

"We listen to the radio to hear what's cookin’
But the music ain't got no soul
Now they sound tired but they don't sound Haggard
They've got money but they don't have Cash
They got Junior but they don't have Hank"

It's an Audience Recording from a show on 30th May 2014 at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, CA. Sound is not totally brilliant but it's worth checking out.
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