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Country Music Legend Merle Haggard Dead on His 79th Birthday

MERLE HAGGARDMERLE HAGGARD
Merle Haggard performing on The Johnny Cash Show, 1971Photograph by ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

Merle Haggard, renowned country singer-songwriter, has passed away on his 79th birthday. His agent told CNN he died at his home in California due to complications from pneumonia. He had just cancelled upcoming shows in April last week at the urging of his doctor,

Haggard’s career spanned six decades. Throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Haggard boasted 26 number one country singles, with “The Fugitive” being his debut top hit. Incredibly, he had a one top five country hit every year between 1966 and 1987. His prolific career is perhaps best proven by his 65 albums released since 1963 (in a span of 53 years). He recorded more than 600 songs, about 250 of them being his own compositions.

In addition to numerous tours, Haggard played for two presidents: Richard Nixon at the White House and Ronald Reagan on his ranch.

In 2006, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys. His early life, though, was plagued by crime (including jail time), and being a runaway eighth grade dropout.

 

Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and recognized by the Kennedy Center honors in 2010.