The Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, fiddler, and guitarist died of pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California, according to his manager Frank Mull. Haggard postponed his tour in March after being hospitalized due to double pneumonia.
The Hag leaves behind one of the deepest and strongest collections of songs in music history. Inspired by a Johnny Cash performance while an inmate in San Quentin Prison, Haggard went on to score 40 No. 1 country singles — "Okie from Muskogee," "Mama Tried," "Branded Man," and "Big City" among them — over the course of his 50-plus-year career.
Haggard helped popularize the “Bakersfield sound” in the ‘60s and outlaw country in the '70s. As a songwriter, he’s considered one of the all-time great populist poets.
"I hate to be that easy to figure out," Haggard told GQ in 2012 when asked about the "wanderers, fugitives, and the terminally luckless" depicted in his songs. "But it's probably true … I sometimes feel like I'm standing up for the people that don't have the nerve to stand up for themselves. I just enjoyed winning for the loser."
The Country Music Hall of Famer was scheduled to play Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia, Minnesota, on July 2. He performed with fellow country giant Kris Kristofferson last September at the Minnesota State Fair. Django & Jimmie, Haggard's duet album with Willie Nelson, came out last year.
"He was my brother, my friend," Nelson told TMZ today. "I will miss him."
Ben Haggard, Merle's youngest son/dynamite touring guitarist, says his dad predicted he'd die on his birthday:
A week ago dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn't wrong. A hour ago he took his last breath...