Editorial: Merle Haggard told stories with a guitar

Country music legend died Wednesday. (Photo CMT)
Country music legend died Wednesday. (Photo CMT)

By Becky Holland, editor@pineywoods.news

The Internet became silent for a few moments yesterday as images of country music legend Merle Haggard hit screens all across the world. On Wednesday, April 6, Haggard’s 79th birthday, he died, family said of complications from pneumonia at his home in northern California.

Fans of all ages just paused in sadness and melancholy as memories of more than three dozen number one country hits from Haggard came alive. From “Okie from Muskogee” to “Fightin’ Side of Me,” Haggard’s songs have touched generations for nearly six decades.

Haggard’s early life wasn’t easy, and it included a prison stint in San Quentin. From battling financial insecurity and living in freight-cars to the youthful endeavors he had in petty crime, Merle Haggard amazingly survived.

It was those very hard times- which the singer himself blamed on poor life choices – that helped develop Haggard into the country music hero he became, and allowed his lyrics to become the method of telling stories that made him the “everyman’s” singer.

In fact, it was while Haggard was in prison that he heard Johnny Cash in concert. Prior to his time at San Quentin, Merle Haggard had done like most California youth did during the 1950s-60s and had played some music. After hearing Cash’s concert, though, he picked it up again, and when he was released from prison, Haggard focused on a musical career. What a musical career it was.

His career garnered him much recognition and partnered him with many greats like George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

People say that his music made him a star. No, Merle Haggard made the music come alive. His music was more than just a “picking” and “strumming” and “singing.” Merle Haggard told stories with a guitar.

Rest in peace, Merle Haggard, and Happy Birthday!

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