My dad really enjoyed old school country/western music, so the music of today's musician was heard quite often in my home while growing up.
Merle Haggard was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, fiddler, and instrumentalist. Along with Buck Owens, Haggard and his band the Strangers helped create the Bakersfield sound, which is characterized by the twang of Fender Telecaster and the unique mix with the traditional country steel guitar sound, new vocal harmony styles in which the words are minimal, and a rough edge not heard on the more polished Nashville sound recordings of the same era.
Haggard's childhood was troubled after the death of his father, and he was incarcerated several times in his youth. He managed to turn his life around and launch a successful country music career, gaining popularity with his songs about the working class that occasionally contained themes contrary to the prevailing anti-Vietnam War subject matter of much popular music of the time. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, he had 38 number one hits on the US country charts, several of which also made the Billboard all-genre singles chart. During the 1970s, Haggard became aligned with the growing outlaw country movement, and he continued to release successful albums through the 1990s and into the 2000s.
His father died of a brain hemorrhage in 1945, an event that deeply affected Haggard during his childhood and the rest of his life. To support the family, his mother worked as a bookkeeper. At 12, his brother, Lowell, gave him his used guitar. Haggard learned to play alone, with the records he had at home, influenced by Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, and Hank Williams. As his mother was absent due to work, Haggard became progressively rebellious. His mother sent him for a weekend to a juvenile detention center to change his attitude, but it worsened.
In 1972, after Haggard had become an established country music star, then-California governor Ronald Reagan granted Haggard a full and unconditional pardon for his past crimes.
He received many honors and awards for his music, including a Kennedy Center Honor (2010), a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), a BMI Icon Award (2006), and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977), Country Music Hall of Fame (1994) and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame (1997). He died on April 6, 2016 — his 79th birthday — at his ranch in Northern California, having recently suffered from double pneumonia.
Rather than go into a deep bio today, I thought I would share some of my favorite Merle Haggard tunes. If you really get a hankering for the bio, Google it. (It's really a fascinating read.)
"I Think I'll Just Stay Here And Drink"
"That's The Way Love Goes"
"Misery and Gin"
"Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star"
Do you have a favorite Merle Haggard song? Feel free to share it in the comments.
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