Skip to main content

Country music loses a legendary outlaw: Merle Haggard dead at 79

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Another shining light in the music world has gone out today. Raucous soul, visionary artist, and sonic pioneer behind the rise of outlaw country Merle Haggard has died in his home in California, according to a spokeswoman. The music legend died on his 79th birthday.

No cause of death has been determined at this time, though the musician had been in poor health of late, having been in and out of the hospital for months with chronic pneumonia.

“He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him.”

A musical icon whose career began in earnest in the 1960s, Haggard has long been considered one of the best songwriters of all time. In his half century career, Haggard had 40 songs reach the top of the country charts.

A former inmate of San Quentin, Haggard was a teenage runaway who rode freight trains and became a thief — ending up in prison for a botched robbery at the age of 21. He was actually in the crowd at San Quentin when Cash performed there in 1958.

Despite finding a better life in music, Haggard never quite changed his ways, with drug use, bankruptcy, and divorce throwing punches during his long and storied career. Long after his time hopping the real thing, he was reportedly also a longtime model train enthusiast.

An extremely prolific writer who once claimed to have penned over 10,000 songs, Haggard wrote working man’s songs using simple melodies and twangy blues-influenced chords, adding a gritty baritone on top which remained unmistakable throughout his long career. Part of the original band of country outlaws, Haggards cohorts included the likes of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Cash, and Hank Williams Jr., among others.

Haggard performed until his recent illness made it difficult to do so — he was forced to cancel all his performances in April due to health issues. But he remained optimistic about getting better, and was even scheduled to tour with Nelson in support of a collaborative album called Django and Jimmie which was released last year.

Merle Haggard - Mama Tried (Live)

“He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” said Nelson to TMZ about the news of Haggard’s death.

As news of his passing hits the music world, many more tributes to one of the greatest pioneers of an entire musical generation are sure to follow.

There are just too many great Haggard songs to create a comprehensive playlist of his best hits — in fact, you can probably just scroll through his catalog chronologically — but we’ve gathered of a few of our favorites below for your enjoyment.

Parker Hall
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Parker Hall is a writer and musician from Portland, OR. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin…
What is hi-res audio, and how can you experience it right now?
Dlyan Wireless Headphones

High-resolution audio, hi-res audio, or even HD audio -- whatever you decide to call it (for the record, the industry prefers "hi-res audio"), it's a catch-all term that describes digital audio that goes above and beyond the level of sound quality you can expect from a garden-variety MP3 file and even CDs. It was once strictly the domain of audiophiles, but now that major streaming music services like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, and Qobuz have embraced it, almost everyone can take advantage of what hi-res has to offer.

But what exactly is hi-res audio? What equipment do you need to listen to it? Where can you download or stream it? And does it actually sound better? We've got the answers.
What does the term 'hi-res audio' mean?

Read more
How to download music from Spotify for offline listening
How to download music and podcasts from Spotify: The downloads folder.

If you're a Spotify Premium user paying that premium Spotify fee, chances are you've taken at least some time curating playlists, liking songs, and using the platform's easy-to-use (and recently revamped) user interface to discover new and old music.

But sometimes all that music or your favorite podcasts aren't available if you find yourself without an internet connection to stream them from — like on a long plane ride or weekend camping trip in the sticks. That's where Spotify's offline listening feature comes in handy, allowing you to download playlists, albums, and podcasts through its desktop and mobile apps so you can still rock out while you're off the grid.

Read more
How to switch from Spotify to Apple Music
Spotify and Apple Music transfer on a smartphone.

Spotify is the world's most popular music streaming service for a reason. It has a massive catalog of music and podcasts, is full of cool music discovery and sharing features, and is really easy to use.
However, with its recent price increase and the fact that it still hasn't joined most of its peers in offering a hi-res audio quality option, you may be considering jumping ship for its closest competitor, Apple Music, which counts lossless hi-res tracks, mind-bending spatial audio, Dolby Atmos Music tracks, and a catalog that rivals Spotify's among the many attractive reasons to switch.

But there's one problem: you’ve spent a lot of time creating playlists and marking songs and albums as your favorites in Spotify. Is it worth the switch? Will all that hard work be lost in translation?

Read more