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Merle Haggard performing in April 2014 in Los Vegas. (Getty Image)

Merle Haggard performing in April 2014 in Los Vegas. (Getty Image)

Palo Cedro, California — Merle Haggard died here in his home today on his 79th birthday. Haggard was born April 6, 1937.
A statement from his manager said he died of pneumonia. He died just a few days after cancelling concerts in Cape Girardeau and Springfield, Mo., with Willie Nelson. Haggard was scheduled to appear this Thursday and Friday at the Missouri dates.
A legendary singer and songwriter, Haggard will be remembered for big country hits such as “Okie from Muskogee,” “Pancho & Lefty,” “Mamma Tried,” “Silver Wings,” and “I Think I’ll Just Sit Here and Drink.”
Willie today paid tribute to Merle on his Facebook page, stating, “He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” and linking to a video of their 1983 song together, “Pancho and Lefty.”
After battling double pneumonia Haggard had been advised by his doctor not to do the April dates. In his cancellation statement Haggard said he was hoping to be able to perform for his May dates.
He had scheduled four dates with Willie May 19-22. In addition, he was to perform with Marty Stuart May 10 at the Arkansas State University (ASU) Convocation Center with eight other dates following that through May 21.
Among Merle’s many honors, he was elected to Mammoth Spring’s George D. Hay Music Hall of Fame in 2004. He had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.
Merle was married five times, the third to country singer Leona Williams, who divorced him in 1983. Williams reportedly still lives somewhere in Missouri and performed in concert at Thayer, Mo., with her son Ron at the Oregon Country Music Theater in February 2013.
At his death he was married to Theresa Ann Lane, whom he wed in 1993.
Merle and Willie had scheduled an extensive tour this Spring and summer following the success of their joint album “Django and Jimmie.”
Following Merle’s death his youngest son Ben posted a photo on Instagram with the following message: “A week ago dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn’t wrong. An hour ago he took his last breath surrounded by family and friends. He loved everything about life, and he loved that everyone of you gave him a chance with his music. He wasn’t just a country singer. He was the best country singer that ever lived.”
There will never be another Hag, and what a shame he left us so soon . . . .
Update: A private funeral service will be held Saturday, April 9, in Palo Cedro, according to The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. Marty Stuart and his wife, Hall of Fame member Connie Smith, will participate.
“I found out yesterday that Merle had preplanned his own service,” Stuart told The Tennessean. “He requested that Connie sing ‘Precious Memories,’ that me and Connie sing his song, ‘Silver Wings,’ and that I officiate the service. We’re honored to do it.”
C.L.and H.E.
Merle and Willie 4
Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson

Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson


Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson (SiriusXM photo)

Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson (SiriusXM photo)

Merle Haggard (Facebook photo)

Merle Haggard (Facebook photo)

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