12 Most Badass Merle Haggard Prison Songs
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Many of Merle Haggard's most beloved country songs were inspired by his time in jail. Michael Ochs Archives

When Merle Haggard sings about life behind bars, he's playing three chords and the truth. He served almost three years in California's maximum-security facility San Quentin for burglary before being paroled in 1960. But while Haggard may have been free from his cell, he continued to carry the stigma of being a "branded man." Instead of regressing to previous bad behaviors, however, he channeled both his experience inside and out of the prison walls into some of country music's most evocative songs: "Sing Me Back Home," "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" and, of course, "Mama Tried." Today, as country fans note the Hag's 78th birthday, we count down his 12 most badass prison songs.