On This Day: Merle Haggard Passes Away in 2016

by Madison Miller

Merle Haggard, an influential country singer, songwriter, and guitarist passed away on April 6, 2016. He was 79 when he passed away from a series of different health issues.

Haggard had suffered from a series of different health issues during his life. In 1995, he had an angioplasty to unblock his arteries. Then in 2008, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He actually had surgery to remove part of his lung.

According to Taste of Country in 2016, Haggard had brought his musical career to a screeching halt in December of 2015. He was checked into the hospital with double pneumonia and had told the media he was “nearly dead” for the two weeks he was there. He proceeded to cancel shows in January. Eventually, he canceled all of his shows for April as well due to orders he was given by his doctor.

Merle Haggard passed away on his birthday at home in Palo Cedro, Shasta County, California. He was in hospice care right before passing away.

Merle Haggard Journey into Music

Haggard grew up poor in California. His family would live out of a boxcar after his childhood home burned to the ground.

Merle Haggard had quite the rebellious side, starting at an early age of 9. It was shortly after his father had passed away. He had ended up in prison for a decent stretch of time when he was only 20.

It was his time behind bars that led him even closer to music. Haggard happened to be locked away at the San Quentin prison. This is the location where infamous musician Johnny Cash performed his live album, “At San Quentin.” He was there for the performance.

Upon his release, Haggard immediately started to try to make a new for himself in country music. He would sing in clubs alongside electric guitars and some twangy vocals.

In 1964, he broke through as his own unique artist. He released “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Branded Man,” “Sing Me Back Home,” and “Mama Tried.” His songs had stood out from others at the time for their deeply personal stories.

Merle Haggard only gained popularity as the ’70s and ’80s approached. During his career, according to the Tennessean, Haggard had released 38 No.1 country songs. He had influenced country music’s future in a massive way. He had also written countless country classics for other artists like Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, and The Grateful Dead.

Inspiration to Music Industry

Artists of the genre looked up to his musical inspiration. The Chicks, Collin Raye, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, LeAnn Rimes, David Allan Coe, George Strait, and Miranda Lambert are just a few that have mentioned him in a song or stated he had an influence on their sound.

Some of his other essential songs were “Sing Me Back Home,” “Hungry Eyes,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” and “Mama Tried.” He had also released tribute albums over the years for artists he deemed influential. This included Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills. Haggard is considered the ultimate success story, from prison to awards and fame. He had found his place in recording, songwriting, and performing.

“Probably the happiest moments of my life have been on a stage. …The stage is a refuge for me, and it always has been. Over the years, I’ve climbed inside my music when things went wrong. I still do that. My music is where I really live,” Haggard said to Country Music Magazine in 1986.

The last solo album fans have from Merle Haggard is “Working in Tennessee” from 2011. He also collaborated on two different albums in 2015. One was with Willie Nelson and the other was with Mac Wiseman.

Merle Haggard was married five times. He married Theresa Ann Lane in 1993 and the couple had two children, Jenessa and Ben.