When one of the country music’s greats reveals who they admire most, they have to be a true icon. For George Strait, he revealed he gained inspiration and influence from the legendary outlaw singer Merle Haggard.
For the “King of Country Music,” Haggard left a lasting impression on Strait. Like many others, he considers Haggard to have made deep-rooted contributions to the music industry.
George Strait On Merle Haggard: ‘Greatest Singer-Songwriter And Musician Of My Lifetime’
Before a performance in 2018, Strait spoke highly of the outlaw singer when he described him as “the poet of the common man.” He also added that Haggard was, “One of the greatest singer-songwriters and musicians of my lifetime.”
Strait’s acclaim for the singer shone through when he told the audience he likes to play his songs to “keep that legacy going.” He even added to the admiration when he revealed that the guitar he was using was a replica of the one Haggard used to play.
Clutching the guitar, Strait performed a heartfelt rendition of one of Haggard’s hits, “Sing Me Back Home.” Released in 1967, Haggard wrote the track independently. It was the first single off of his album of the same title. After the song became a significant hit, it made its way to the top spot on the “Billboard Hot Country Songs” chart.
George Strait’s traditional country sound made him the perfect fit to perform “Sing Me Back Home.”
The song was among several Haggard songs that touched on a theme of his ’60s and early ’70s recordings: prison. Haggard himself spent three years at San Quentin State Prison in California for robbery.
The theme includes Haggard’s relationships with two inmates: Caryl Chessman, the “first modern American executed for a non-lethal kidnapping” and James “Rabbit” Kendrick. The state of California executed Kendrick in 1961 for killing a patrolman after escaping from prison.
No one matches Haggard’s signature voice, but Strait offers a performance that would make fans — and the late singer — proud.
Watch George Strait pay homage to his hero in his performance. There’s no better person to watch pay tribute to Haggard’s legacy and life.