by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
Country music legend Merle Haggard died Wednesday at his home near Redding, California. It was his 79th birthday. Haggard’s son, Ben Haggard, who played in his father’s band, posted on his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon that his dad had predicted his death.
Haggard had been battling pneumonia in recent months, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Haggard spent time in jail, sentenced to 15 years at the age of 18 in San Quentin, where he served two years. He credited Johnny Cash’s performance at the prison in 1958 — Haggard was in the audience — as his inspiration to pursue music. His music reflected his life, with the outlaw life a constant topic.
“I would’ve become a lifetime criminal if music hadn’t saved my ass,” he told Rolling Stone.
Haggard had 38 No. 1 singles on the country charts. One of his most famous was 1969’s “Okie from Muskogee.” Haggard won two Grammy awards, in 1984 for “That’s the Way Love Goes,” and in 1998 for a collaboration with artists Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam and others. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994, and was presented with a Kennedy Center Honor in 2010, alongside fellow songwriter Paul McCartney.
Haggard is survived by his wife, Theresa Ann Lane, and his children, Dana, Marty, Kelli, Noel, Ben and Jenessa.