- 🇺🇸 Oildale, CA
- Years Active
1963 - 2016
Merle Haggard is a country music legend and one of the most influential figures in the genre's history, emerging from a troubled past to become a prolific singer, songwriter and guitarist whose music resonated with audiences of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs.
Haggard's childhood was marked by hardship and adversity. He grew up outside of Bakersfield, Calif. during the Great Depression, and at age nine suffered the loss of his father, the seminal moment in Haggard's life. A profound rebellious streak led to numerous run-ins with the law, and these early experiences shaped the music he would later create, infusing his songs with an authenticity and rawness that instantly connected with listeners.
Following his parole from San Quentin State Prison, Haggard finally focused his energy on making music, honing his craft in local bars and clubs. Influenced by the likes of honky tonk legends Lefty Frizzell, Bob Wills and Hank Williams as well as local contemporaries Wynn Stewart and Buck Owens - the architects of the so-called Bakersfield Sound - Haggard cut a handful of singles for the local Tally label before signing to Capitol Records in 1965. There he released a string of hits that solidified his place as a country music icon: songs like "Sing Me Back Home," "Mama Tried," "Okie From Muskogee" and "Workin' Man Blues" showcased his rich baritone voice and heartfelt delivery, earning him a dedicated fanbase.
Haggard's music often touched on themes of heartbreak, resilience, patriotism and the hardships of everyday life, and while his honest, relatable lyrics appealed to blue-collar Americans (and eloquently captured their struggles and experiences), he also emerged as a counterculture icon whose music indelibly shaped generations of country-leaning rockers. Haggard garnered numerous awards, including multiple Grammy Awards, Country Music Association Awards, and Academy of Country Music Awards, and in 2010 accepted a Kennedy Center Honor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in recognition of his lifetime achievement and "outstanding contribution to American culture." He passed away on Apr. 6, 2016, his 79th birthday.
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