Country Music Star Merle Haggard Passes Away on 79th Birthday

Haggard died of pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California.

Updated
Entertainment
2 min read
Haggard died of pneumonia, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Palo Cedro, California.(Photo: AP)

Country musician Merle Haggard, who emerged from prison to become the poetic voice of the American working man with hits such as Mama Tried and If We Make It Through December, died on Wednesday, his 79th birthday, said manager Frank Mull.

Haggard died of pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California, Mull said. The country legend had cancelled all his concerts for the month of April due to illness.

His son Ben, who played lead guitar in Haggard’s band, said his father had predicted the day of his death.

A week ago, Dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn’t wrong. An hour ago he took his last breath surrounded by family and friends.
Ben, Haggard’s son

Haggard became one of the most influential figures in country music with a repertoire that included songs with traditional country themes such as drinking and heartache, but he infused them with more insight and tenderness than most honky-tonkers. He also broadened the genre by writing about poverty, loneliness and social issues.

Many celebrities took to social media to express their condolences to the family.

Flowers memorialize the death of Merle Haggard near his plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.(Photo: AP)
Flowers memorialize the death of Merle Haggard near his plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.(Photo: AP)

Long-time friend and frequent collaborator Willie Nelson told Entertainment Weekly, “He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him.”

Haggard had part of a lung removed in 2008 because of cancer but was performing again within two months.

Haggard had six children from his five marriages, including two with his last wife, Theresa.

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