100 Greatest Singers
April 6th, 1937
Key Tracks "The Fugitive," "The Bottle Let Me Down," "Mama Tried"
Influenced Gram Parsons, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait
Merle Haggard's tough but smooth baritone epitomized Sixties and Seventies country, from the stubborn attack of "Okie From Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me" to the delicate crooning on "Silver Wings" and "If We Make It Through December." "The only thing that vies with Haggard's poetic genius," says Dwight Yoakam, "is the gift he has as a singer who delivers those songs with one of the most pure and profoundly powerful voices in music." Haggard owes his biggest debts to country pioneers Jimmie Rodgers and Lefty Frizzell; when he dips down to his signature low notes, he's invoking another key influence: Southern soul man Brook Benton. Check out "I Threw Away the Rose," in which one of those low notes comes from out of nowhere, adding a visceral thrust to the lyrics' desperation.