Country music legend Merle Haggard has passed away on his birthday at the age of 79. The Associated Press confirms with Haggard’s manager, Frank Mull, that the country icon died at his home in Palo Cedro, California, eight miles east of Redding, of pneumonia that he had been battling for months.
Haggard had an ambitious touring schedule, but was forced to cancel several shows this year as he had pneumonia in both lungs. The Bakersfield native, along with Buck Owens, was a pioneer of the twangy Bakersfield Sound, a direct contrast to the smooth, string-laden country records popular in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1960s.
Haggard’s son, Ben, posted on Facebook that his dad predicted his death on his birthday.
“A week ago dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn’t wrong,” the younger Haggard writes on Facebook. “A 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.”
Some of Haggard’s biggest hits include “Okie From Muskogee,” “Working Man Blues,” “Mama Tried,” “Sing Me Back Home,” and others.
Country stars have taken to social media to share their thoughts on the legendary singer’s passing.
He was more than a great talent. He was a gifted poet. What a huge inspiration he was to everyone! RIP Merle Haggard pic.twitter.com/AneyiMgdsh
— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) April 6, 2016
Merle Haggard is the reason I do what I do. I can’t believe he’s gone. pic.twitter.com/RdzbvtWwLg
— Josh Thompson (@TheJoshThompson) April 6, 2016
— George Jones (@gjpossum) April 6, 2016
Pains me to say that country music icon @merlehaggard has passed away. So honored to have known him and shared the stage with him.
— Josh Turner (@joshturnermusic) April 6, 2016
Love and prayers for the Haggard family. Merle was a pioneer…a true entertainer…a legend. There will never be another like him.
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) April 6, 2016
Man my heart is aching really bad right now !! Merle Haggard past today!! Gonna find me a bar and have a double shot!!! Rest in piece
— Eddie Montgomery (@LuckymanEddie) April 6, 2016
There are no words to describe the loss & sorrow felt within all of music with the passing of Merle Haggard. Thank God for his life & songs.
— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) April 6, 2016
"Mighty" Merle Haggard was the greatest country songwriter of ALL TIME. We shared many great memories, and I will miss him. #merlehaggard
— John Rich (@johnrich) April 6, 2016
Hard to believe the news about Merle Haggard. Working with him is something I'll never forget & will cherish forever pic.twitter.com/XsgqYvbtD5
— Dustin Lynch (@dustinlynch) April 6, 2016
Rest in peace, Hag. One of a kind, and the definition of legend. pic.twitter.com/aUGX22Avna
— Trisha Yearwood (@trishayearwood) April 6, 2016
literally just fell to the floor. can't believe we lost the hag. rip merle haggard
— Dierks Bentley (@DierksBentley) April 6, 2016