Merle’s life reads like a tall tale that for most of us, we could only experience by living vicariously through a character in a fictional novel.
However, Merle lives life the only way he can, as his own character in a life built around music, a few early years of petty crime and iron will.
His (Summarized) Story
Merle Ronald Haggard (born April 6, 1937) is an American country music singer, guitarist, instrumentalist, and songwriter. Along with Buck Owens, Haggard and his band The Strangers helped create the Bakersfield Sound, which is characterized by the unique twang of Fender Telecaster guitars, vocal harmonies, and a rough edge not heard on the more polished Nashville Sound recordings of the same era.
By the 1970s, Haggard was aligned with the growing outlaw country movement, and has continued to release successful albums through the 1990s and into the 2000s. In 1997, Merle Haggard was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame for his song “Okie from Muskogee”.
During the early to mid 1970s, Haggard’s chart domination continued with songs like “Someday We’ll Look Back”, “Carolyn”, “Grandma Harp”, “Always Wanting You”, and “The Roots of My Raising”. The 1973 recession anthem “If We Make It Through December” furthered Haggard’s status as a champion of the working class.
Notably, on March 14, 1972, shortly after “Carolyn” became another number one country hit for Haggard, Governor Ronald Reagan granted Haggard a full pardon for his past crimes.
In 2008, it was announced that Haggard had been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in May of that year and underwent surgery on November 3 during which part of his lung was removed. Haggard returned home on November 8. Less than two months after his cancer surgery, Haggard played two shows on January 2 and 3, 2009, in Bakersfield at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace and is planning to continue to tour and record.