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Merle Haggard: 30 Essential Songs

From the defiance of “The Fightin’ Side of Me” to the melancholy of “If We Make It Through December”

Merle Haggard

From "Mama Tried" to "Silver Wings," the essential tracks of Merle Haggard.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

One of his many nicknames was the "Okie From Muskogee," taken from his song of that title that became a conservative anthem during the Vietnam War. But "conservative" was never the way to describe the country music phenomenon that was Merle Haggard. A pioneer of both the Bakersfield sound and the Outlaw Country movement, the California native and one-time resident of San Quentin Prison was a rule breaker both in and out of the studio, developing a sound that has been emulated by countless artists since who've walked in — and worshiped — his bootsteps. Presented in chronological order, here are the 30 songs, from the rebellious to the romantic, that collectively reflect the greatness of Merle Haggard's 54-year career.