Merle Haggard received his “Silver Wings” after a battle with pneumonia on his 79th birthday, April 6, 2016.
Yesterday, after learning of the death of the legendary Merle Haggard, many country music stars have reacted expressing their love and admiration for one of the genre’s greatest pioneers:
We’ve lost one of the greatest writers and singers of all time. His heart was as tender as his love ballads. I loved him like a brother. Rest easy, Merle.
— Dolly Parton
We’ve lost another hero. Now he doesn’t have to be in pain anymore. I know he’s not suffering anymore. I just can’t imagine a world without Merle. It’s so hard to accept, but I’ll continue honoring him on stage just as I do during every show. We played a lot of gigs together through the years, but some of my fondest memories were hanging out in a natural setting, like the time we sat there by the river in his backyard and ate bologna sandwiches. Merle was a simple man with incredible talent like no other. And now he’s up there singing with George [Jones] and all the angels. Love you, Merle.
— Tanya Tucker
Merle Haggard was an original. Not just a singer, not just a songwriter, not just another famous performer. He was your common everyday working man. I remember when I was 15 years old on tour with Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. They both were wondering which one of the two was going to make it. Well, they both made it. Today, ole Merle joined Waylon, George, and daddy to sing in the Heavenly choir.
— Hank Williams, Jr.
I am deeply saddened to hear of Merle’s passing. He was a dear friend, I remember touring with him at various points throughout the 90’s and those are memories that I will always cherish. I hate that he lived so far away from us these last few years, but definitely understand it. My hope is that he passed a happy and content man. I learned so much from this kind man about singing, when Merle Haggard sang you paid attention. He is about as close to perfection in country music as we will probably ever have.
— Lorrie Morgan
I am devastated over the loss of Merle Haggard. He was my absolute favorite of ALL time. I have listened to him since I was a kid. His poetry, his voice and his pure country music style will live forever. I am listening to him sing Sweet Jesus with The Oak Ridge Boys as I write this. SO honored to have recorded this Dove Award winning song with my HERO! Rest Easy Hag… Until The Day…“Jesus… Sweet Jesus…You love me just as I am… Jesus… Sweet Jesus… I’ve been washed in the Blood of the Lamb!”
— Joe Bonsall / Oak Ridge Boys
A few years ago Merle sent me a song he wanted The Oak Ridge Boys to record. He’d written it with Kenny Vernon. When I heard it, I felt there was no way we could do it unless we asked Merle to do it with us.
His response was, “Anything you ‘Boys’ want.”
So, we recorded “Sweet Jesus,” and it won a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Best Country Song. It was a huge honor to sing with one of our biggest heroes, Merle Haggard.
May he rest in peace in the arms of Sweet Jesus.
— Duane Allen / Oak Ridge Boys
Merle Haggard was one of the greatest songwriters, performers and story-tellers that ever lived. I grew up on his music and am I’m so saddened by his passing.
— Kiefer Sutherland
Merle was a singer’s singer, a musician’s musician, and a songwriter’s songwriter. He set the feelings of the everyday common man to music, creating songs that will outlive us all. I feel privileged to have toured with him and known him as both a great artist and as a friend. His passing leaves a big hole in country music and in the hearts of the millions who loved him and his artistry.
— Bill Anderson
“I first met Merle Haggard when I was a rookie opener for Tanya Tucker in 1990. Merle was the closing act at a festival show we all were playing together and he invited Tanya and me onstage to sing ‘Okie From Muskogee’ with him. It was the thrill of a lifetime for a greenhorn like me to hang out with this musical icon for several hours after the show. I remember being awestruck just being in his presence that night! I admired every aspect of Merle’s talent, but I told him that it was his songwriting that inspired me the most. He was more than just a great talent. He was a true modern day poet for the common blue-collar worker. His lyrics gave a voice to an entire class of people who couldn’t put their feelings into words.I’m so grateful for the inspiration that his music and his life’s story were to me. Merle Haggard will go down in history as one of the greatest inspirations that the entire country music world has ever known. Just think about how many times you’ve heard the names ‘Haggard and Jones’ used to describe our brand of music! RIP Merle.”
Merle always treated me like a true friend treats his true friends. We had great fun every time we worked together. He was one of the good ones. Getting to see God’s face on your birthday, what a wonderful gift!
— T. Graham Brown
George and I loved Merle so much. George would always say nobody could ever sing like Merle Haggard. Merle was one of our Country Heroes. Now, George and Merle are together again singing with the Angel Band.
— Nancy Jones
We join the world of the broken hearted hearing of the death of Merle Haggard. One of the first things John and I realized we had in common was our love of Haggard songs. What a blessing to have had a chance to get to know him and work with such a legend in our career. Merle, guess you finally are on the ultimate Natural High. We will have your music in our hearts and souls and honkytonk nights forever! God Bless the great Merle Haggard. May you fly with the Angels.
— ‘Big Kenny’ Alphin / Big & Rich
“Mighty” Merle Haggard was the greatest country songwriter of ALL TIME. We shared many great memories, and I will miss him. Merle set the bar so high no one will ever top it. He refused to bend and turn to the whims of the music industry throughout the decades, and instead remained a steady ship of constant greatness that every artist could look up to and aspire to be. I had the distinct honor of becoming his friend and spent priceless time picking guitars on the back of his bus, doing videos together, and I soaked up every drop of soul from him every chance I got. You take your hat off when you shake hands with Merle Haggard. You listen and pay attention and realize that you are in the company of one of God’s prize creations. I will miss him. I bet Heaven has swingin’ doors today.
— John Rich / Big & Rich
We’ve lost another great one. Merle leaves a great legacy behind, the songs, the styling, the phrasing….to study Merle’s musical style was to immerse yourself in the heart of Country. For months we’ve been planning a Tribute to Merle, the guest have been invited and Merle had it on his calendar. We will miss him greatly. Now the tribute will be a honoring of the man his songs, his music and his life.
— Larry Black, Larry’s Country Diner
He was the genius of the last half century in country music and we will all miss him and nobody can replace him.
— Leroy Van Dyke
My heart is broken over the loss of one of the greatest country singers ever. He was an icon to me. He took me to school with his phrasing, his songwriting and style – and he was undoubtedly one of my greatest influences. Getting to sing with him several times over the years will be memories I cherish forever. He was such a great man, on stage and off.
— Gene Watson
It was a tremendous opportunity to be able to sing duets with Merle and for that to be a part of my life. What a great difference it made to me to be able to work on Merle’s records. It was like a dream come true… I never would have imagined to be able to sing duets with all the great artists that I’ve worked with. Merle has been such a special part of my life, I’m just proud to have great memories of working with him.
— Janie Fricke
He’s my hero and I’ll never forget recording ‘Don’t Sing Me No Songs About Texas’ with Merle. To hear hear him on the same track as me was amazing. Merle was the master. The ultimate writer, musician and singer. He did it all. And I will miss him so much.
— Moe Bandy
Merle Haggard’s death not only signifies the passing of the greatest singer Country Music has ever known, but also resonates hard with us personally. At our house we considered Merle almost a family member, from the early days when our dad would wake us up for school by playing one of his albums to years later when we played many shows together with Merle on tour. The first show we played with Merle – he came barreling on to our tour bus looking for a place to hide while the police were searching his bus. By the time that incident got cleared up we’d become friends. We let him know he could hide out on our bus anytime he needed to and we continued to tour many more times with him and collect lots more Merle stories over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today and may God rest his soul.
— David and Howard Bellamy, The Bellamy Brothers
He did our Statler Brothers TV show a few times and I got to know him over the years. He was one of the most influential people in this business. He is going to be sorely missed. Heaven’s band just got another great member much like so many of our other heroes who have passed. We will miss him dearly.
— Jimmy Fortune
It’s a very sad day for the world to lose the great Merle Haggard. I still can’t believe it. The last time I saw him was just outside of the Station Inn here in Nashville. We stood in the middle of the road and laughed and talked. I can still see the sparkle in his eye. He had such a beautiful spirit. I treasure that memory. Even beyond his amazing songs and music, it was easy to see why Merle was so loved. He will missed forever.
— Deborah Allen
I have lost a dear friend, but Country music and its fans have lost one of its greatest treasures. One of my greatest memories of Hag was always speaking on Christmas and catching up, as well as having toured and sang with him.
— T.G. Sheppard
I am still sitting here processing the news I just learned of the passing of Merle Haggard and ironically on his birthday. Remembering precious memories of meeting him just one year ago, sitting on his bus, talking about how he continued to write songs each and every day. He even mentioned he had a song for me. How special it was, as he listened to us sing, and after he even played Hunter’s fiddle. His music will live forever! Our sincere condolences to his family. Rest In Sweet Peace “Mighty Merle”!!
— Rhonda Vincent
Being that I was a huge Merle Haggard fan, he was one of the ones that I did a couple of shows with early in my career. He welcomed me into the music industry. It’s extremely sad when you see people like “The Hag” leave us – he’s been huge, the industry is what it is today because of great musicians/artists/songwriters like him.
— Mark Wills
My friendship goes back to 1963 when Merle was voted Most Promising Male Vocalist and I was voted Most Promising Female Vocalist by VIP, which later became the ACM Awards. When I first met Merle, I was a little intimidated because my mom warned me of anybody who had been in prison. I got over my fears and we became very close through the years. He recorded two of my songs “Life of a Rodeo Cowboy” and “My Love For You.” And I sang backup for him on “Ramblin Fever” and “Always On A Mountain When I Fall.” His passing is such a loss to not only me personally, but our entire industry. We all loved the Hag.
— Jeannie Seely
“When we lost George Jones, I said, ‘Years ago someone asked Coach Bum Phillips if Earl Campbell was in a class by himself. Bum replied, ‘Well if he ain’t, it sure don’t take long to check roll.’ The same applies for the great Merle Haggard. I will miss my friend.”
— Larry Gatlin
“Now in the presence of the One his sweet Mama told him about. We will miss you, but you won’t be missing us!”
— Ricky Skaggs
“We’ve lost a unique voice and writer of great country songs. God Bless you Merle…I just wish you’d ‘made it through December’ a few more times.”
— Ray Stevens
“Merle Haggard has been a huge influence in my life, to my music and my career. Thank you very much Hag and God bless you.”
— Sammy Kershaw
“I don’t think it’s a hyperbole to say Merle Haggard was a national treasure. He was. Haggard is as American as apple pie and baseball. He was the poet laureate of country music. Try to find one songwriter in Nashville who didn’t idolize Hag. You can’t. It’s impossible.”
— Pam Tillis
“I was fortunate enough to get to play several shows with Merle and he always had great advice to give me. We have lost an icon and a legend.”
— Aaron Tippin
“After meeting and being around Country legends such as Merle Haggard, it increased my respect and my desire of getting to know him, which I accomplished. His loss will be deeply mourned by everyone in Country music as well as by those of other music genres. May he rest in peace.”
— Doug Gray on behalf of The Marshall Tucker Band
“I am dumbfounded by this news. Merle Haggard was probably my greatest musical influence and my hero. I never shook his hand, but the music he made shook my soul to the core. It hurts to think about no more Haggard but honestly, we all know, that he made enough music to last us a lifetime. I just hope his passing might call attention to some of the stuff that made country music a mainstay. Maybe this generation will go back and listen to what shaped and molded the genre. I guess it’s okay to veer off in a different direction but the end product needs to have the same impact. The question is, how does today’s country music stack up when compared to one of the masters like Merle Haggard? Give it some thought. You don’t need my help with that one. I feel confident, you’ll figure it out. Thanks, Merle, for all the great songs and all the great music. It’ll never be the same.”
— Darryl Worley
“Merle Haggard was a ‘must see’ artist, a cornerstone of country. Eloquent as a poet and singer, he was completely authentic…imitated but never equaled. Timeless music at its best. Restless Heart and all other bands owe him a great debt.”
— Dave Innis on behalf of Restless Heart