The world of music lost a true Icon today, as on his 79th birthday, Merle haggard, one of the true legends of country music has passed away.

Via The Tennessean:

Merle Haggard, the working man’s poet, an architect of the Bakersfield Sound and a fiercely independent artist who influenced country music like few others, died Wednesday in California, surrounded by friends and family.

He had just turned 79 and had been in failing health for some time, leading to the diagnosis of double pneumonia and subsequent cancellation of several concert dates, including two nights at the Ryman Auditorium that were originally scheduled for March.

Over the course of his half-century career, Mr. Haggard recorded 38 No. 1 country singles and wrote some of the genre’s most revered classics, which have been recorded by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, The Byrds, Vince Gill, The Grateful Dead and countless others.

“Merle Haggard’s reach knew no bounds,” said Jay Orr, a historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Orr also noted that Mr. Haggard so embodied country music that the museum’s core exhibit, “Sing Me Back Home,” takes its title from a chart-topping song he released in 1968.

Mr. Haggard’s life, which took him from a San Quentin prison cell to the Country Music Hall of Fame, was a truly American success story. Read More…

Its not often that I use the word hero, but Merle Haggard is a country music hero of mine. I didn’t listen to or even understand country music as a teenager and it was not until my mid twenties that I got turned on to the music of Haggard.

In David Allan Coe’s “The Ride,” a song about encountering the ghost of the late great Hank Williams Sr, there is a verse that goes like this:

“Drifter can ya make folks cry when you play and sing?
Have you paid your dues, can you moan the blues?
Can you bend them, guitar strings?”
He said, “Boy can you make folks feel what you feel inside?
‘Cause if you’re big star bound let me warn ya, it’s a long, hard ride”

That truly defines Merle Haggard, when he sang you could feel it inside.