Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard

One of country music's most gifted and prolific songwriters, Merle Haggard symbolizes the American workingman — dignified, downtrodden, and not unlikely to visit the neighborhood bar — of whom he often sings. He is also a staunch upholder of musical traditions, particularly Western swing, and leads one of country music's most improvisatory bands. Though an outspoken critic of the Nashville star system, Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994; that same year he was feted with two simultaneous tribute albums, one consisting of country superstars, the other a group of rootsy country mavericks. Haggard himself fits equally into both camps.

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

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