Today is a bittersweet day for Merle Haggard fans. It was on this day, 80 years ago, that the Bakersfield legend was born, and it was on the same day, 12 months ago, that he passed away. To honor his late friend, Willie Nelson has released a heartbreaking new video for the song “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” which appears on the new album God’s Problem Child.
“Got the news this morning,” Nelson sings in the opening line of the song. “Knew it’d be a tough one.” The Red Headed Stranger, whose own health scares have struck fear into the hearts of country fans everywhere in recent months, delivers a touching tribute to The Hag, his voice brittle as he chronicles their friendship and ruminates on mortality between references to Haggard’s most well-known songs.
The black-and-white video features footage from the recording sessions for the pair’s duets album Django & Jimmie, which topped the charts in 2015 and was the final album Haggard released before his death. “It was a pretty good way to close the show,” Nelson said of that album in an interview this week with SiriusXM.
“He Won’t Ever Be Gone” is the final song on God’s Problem Child, which will be released on April 28th, the day before Nelson’s 84th birthday. Nelson is also set to perform at this evening’s Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard tribute concert in Nashville, along with Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Keith Richards, Dierks Bentley and many others.