Country music legend Merle Haggard dies at 79 - WSMV News 4

Country music legend Merle Haggard dies at 79

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Merle Haggard passed away on his 79th birthday. (Source: Facebook.com/MerleHaggard) Merle Haggard passed away on his 79th birthday. (Source: Facebook.com/MerleHaggard)
Merle Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. (WSMV) Merle Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Country music legend Merle Haggard has died, his manager confirmed. He turned 79 on Wednesday.

Haggard’s manager said he died at 9:20 a.m. in California.

Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. He was best known for his 1969 hit Okie From Muskogee, along with dozens of other No. 1 hits and numerous collaborations.

Last month, Haggard had to postpone two shows at the Ryman Auditorium after he was hospitalized with pneumonia.

Friends like Willie Nelson were recently told Haggard would be heading to hospice, but his death still came as a shock.

Haggard grew up poor in Bakersfield, CA. He was a petty thief who ended up in prison. After a few years back on the streets, he dug ditches by day and sang by night.

In 1965, he earned the Academy of Country Music Award for New Male Vocalist of the Year. He dominated the award shows in the 1970s. As the years went on, Haggard slowed but never stopped.

Bob Dylan once described Haggard as too big for Mount Rushmore. His influence can be heard in thousands of songs written and recorded in Nashville.

Country music fans and fellow stars took to social media to pay tribute to the outlaw country icon. A memorial at the Country Music Hall of Fame was also drawing fans on Wednesday.

Haggard’s funeral will be held at his home in Palo Cedro, CA, on Saturday. Marty Stuart will officiate and sing, along with his wife, Connie Smith.

Copyright 2016 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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