The Legend: His Life and Musical Journey
Merle Haggard was one of the most influential country music artists of all time. Born in 1937 in Bakersfield, California, Haggard came from humble beginnings but went on to become a pioneer of the “Bakersfield sound” and one of the most popular country singers of the 1960s and 1970s.
Haggard’s family moved to California from Oklahoma during the Great Depression. Times were incredibly tough for the Haggard family and Merle spent much of his youth getting into trouble. After a stint in juvenile detention, Haggard decided to turn his life around and pursue music. He was heavily influenced by country music legends like Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams.
After being released from San Quentin prison in 1960, Haggard began to gain recognition in the Bakersfield country music scene. His first top ten hit on the country charts was “Sing Me Back Home” in 1967. Over the next decade, Haggard scored an incredible 38 #1 hits on the country charts. Some of his most popular songs included “Mama Tried,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” and “Okie from Muskogee.”
Haggard was one of the biggest stars of the outlaw country movement of the 1970s. He gained a reputation for his honest, poetic lyrics about hard working Americans. In addition to his successful solo career, Haggard recorded hit duets with George Jones, Willie Nelson and others. He won numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association and more.
Even as older artists faded, Haggard maintained his popularity well into the 2000s. He continued touring and recording new music almost until his death in 2016 at age 79. Haggard left behind an incredible legacy of 40 #1 country hits and over 85 million records sold worldwide. He proved himself to be one of the most important and influential country artists ever.