One of the most important figures in country music has left us with the sad news of Merle Haggard’s passing at the age of 79. The incredibly prolific and influential country-western superstar had been battling pneumonia for the past year, and finally succumbed to the illness early Wednesday morning, his manager told TMZ.
Haggard actually lived the life of many of his famous Outlaw country songs like “Mama Tried” and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” getting into trouble with drinking and stealing and fighting as a younger man, but managed to clean up enough to become one of country music’s brightest and most enduring stars. So much so that then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, expunged his criminal record in 1972. He was also quite the prolific recorder, making music for six decades, including a duet albums with his frequent collaborator, Willie Nelson, by way of 2015’s Django & Jimmie.
His manager did note to TMZ that despite his fighting spirit, he had to cancel all of his shows last week, due to the pneumonia, and Merle himself even predicted that he would pass on his birthday today.
Merle Haggard’s footprint is so large in the country community that it will last in the genre forever. He will be dearly missed.