Thursday, April 7, 2016

RIP, Merle Haggard

Died on the day he turned 79. One of the great country artists of all time, Merle Haggard, along with Buck Owens, was responsible for what the "Bakersfield sound," a honky-tonk style of country music that pretty much dominated the 1960s and '70s. Haggard was a genuine outlaw, and spent his youth in and out of jails, then did a stint in San Quentin for a few years, getting out in 1960. He was there for a Johnny Cash concert in 1958, which inspired him to turn to music when he got out of prison. He had made something of a living playing bars around his native Bakersfield, but the Cash concert apparently gave him direction.

He was a prolific songwriter and, frankly, brilliant. He was going to be playing not far from me in June, and I was planning to go. Not getting to see him will be one of the great regrets of my life. When he was a kid, his family lived in a fucking railroad boxcar that had been converted to a small house. What else could he do but become a country star?

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