Country Icon Merle Haggard Dies At 79

Wednesday, April 6th 2016, 2:01 pm
By: News 9

Country legend Merle Haggard has died at 79 in California, his manager confirmed. The musician passed away on his birthday.

Haggard had a prolific career and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. He had dozens of top-charting singles, including "Okie from Muskogee," "Big City" and "Mama Tried."

Merle Haggard Talks About His Life and Work

In 1970, Haggard became the first of only five country stars ever to receive the ACM Triple-Crown Award, an honor bestowed to solo artists who have won top new male/female vocalist, top male/female vocalist and entertainer of the year. He received the Triple-Crown title when he won entertainer of the year in 1970. He was honored at the ACM Awards again in 2014 when he was presented with the Crystal Milestone award.

Haggard also received an award at the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors, along with Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney.

In 2010, when Julie Chen asked Haggard on "The Early Show" about the message in his songs, Haggard replied, "One word: truth. No matter how bad it hurts."

Haggard famously spent time in prison. In 1957, he spent two years and nine months locked up in San Quentin State Prison in California. The singer said his time behind bars taught him "the absolute necessity of being honest."

The singer credited his prison stay with starting his country music career. On January 1, 1958, the legendary Johnny Cash performed a full concert for inmates, and Haggard said it was a defining experience that allowed him to find himself through music.