Merle Haggard Dead at 79: Artists React to Loss of the Outlaw Country Icon

Merle Haggard
Alan Messer/REX/Shutterstock

Merle Haggard photographed in 2014 at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Country icon Merle Haggard died Wednesday morning (April 6) on his 79th birthday. Country artists, singer-songwriters and musicians across the nation are reacting online to the news. 

Country Legend Merle Haggard Dead at 79

Read their reactions below. 

"I was always so inspired by the fact that Merle picked up the fiddle in his 40s, not because he was looking for some great career move, but because he let the music lead him. He went on to record A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Bob Wills) and an accompanying tour, and I just always thought he looked so happy playing that fiddle. He is a true legend whose music was always inspired, never contrived. Our world is so much richer because he was in it. " - Lee Ann Womack

"Merle sent a song to me that he and Kenny Vernon wrote. He wanted The Oak Ridge Boys to record it. When I listened to it, I felt there was no way we could do it unless we could ask him to do it with us. Merle said, “Anything you boys want.” So we recorded “Sweet Jesus” and it won a Dove Award for best country song. It was a huge honor to sing with one of our biggest heroes, Merle Haggard. May he rest in peace in the arms of sweet Jesus." - Duane Allen, The Oak Ridge Boys

"I am devastated over the loss of Merle Haggard. He was my absolute favorite of ALL time. I have listened to him since I was a kid. His poetry, his voice and his pure country music style will live forever. I am listening to him sing Sweet Jesus with The Oak Ridge Boys as I write this. SO honored to have recorded this Dove Award winning song with my HERO!  Rest Easy Hag… Until The Day…" - Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys

"We've lost one of the greatest writers and singers of all time. His heart was as tender as his love ballads. I loved him like a brother. Rest easy, Merle." - Dolly Parton

"Merle Haggard was an original. Not just a singer, not just a songwriter, not just another famous performer. He was your common everyday working man. I remember when I was 15 years old on tour with Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. They both were wondering which one of the two was going to make it. Well, they both made it. Today, ole Merle joined Waylon, George, and daddy to sing in the Heavenly choir." - Hank Williams, Jr.

"Words can't express how sad I am. As a kid, I learned to play and sing listening to my dad's old Haggard albums. He was a true pioneer to this business and we should all be thankful for the time we had with him and the music he gave us." - Jason Aldean

?"We’ve lost another hero. Now he doesn’t have to be in pain anymore. I know he’s not suffering anymore. I just can’t imagine a world without Merle. It’s so hard to accept, but I’ll continue honoring him on stage just as I do during every show. We played a lot of gigs together through the years, but some of my fondest memories were hanging out in a natural setting, like the time we sat there by the river in his backyard and ate bologna sandwiches. Merle was a simple man with incredible talent like no other. And now he’s up there singing with George [Jones] and all the angels. Love you, Merle." - Tanya Tucker

“I am incredibly saddened by the passing of my dear friend, Merle Haggard….today, of all days…on his 79th birthday. I first met Merle while working with The Osborne Brothers. I worked with Merle for about 8 years and we went through so much together.  There were good times, and there were other times….well….that only he and I could laugh about. He loved to hear me laugh, for some reason. He would call me up just to hear me laugh when he needing some cheering. We always clicked and had a special friendship. 

I was hoping to see him last month in Nashville, but he fell ill and I’ve been praying and talking with him often throughout this time. Today, I was contacted by the family and found out that Merle had expressed his desire to have me sing “Life’s Railway to Heaven” at the funeral.  What a fitting song for such an amazing man.  He leaves an enormous legacy and will be truly missed." - Ronnie Reno

"One of the great concert memories I have is seeing Merle and the strangers at the Ryman in Nashville. We had a "live" album of his when I was growing up and I felt like I'd fallin inside my Dad’s stereo speakers. One of my all time favorite voices- and a master songwriter. Blessings to your soulful spirit Merle and all of you family and loved ones." - Keith Urban

"Today is a very sad day. Our hearts are broken by the loss of Merle Haggard, he changed country music forever, and without him, it will never be the same. We keep losing too many of the good ones." - Rascal Flatts

?"Sometimes a voice comes along that is so identifiable and convincing that you feel it in your soul. It lives with you and becomes part of your life. It makes you feel things you didn't know you could feel. It makes you see the things you were unable to see. It never ages, therefore it never dies. Merle embodied all of these things and inspired me, as well as countless others. His voice will live on forever." - Kip Moore

"I did an album listening party today and I started with a Merle Haggard song because he was a big part of my youth growing up. My dad had several Merle Haggard records and I got to see him play many times. We have an event every year called 'All for the Hall' that I do with Vince Gill and Merle came in one time and participated in that. I got to play with him and he comes from that line of unfiltered truth tellers. And he wrote some of the most iconic country songs of all time. He’s really going to be missed." - Keith Urban

“Music Biz is saddened to hear of the passing of Country legend Merle Haggard. His influence, not only on his chosen genre, but on music as a whole, cannot be understated. He maintained a strong sales presence on the Country charts throughout his more than five-decade career with a whopping 38 #1 singles and 16 #1 albums, including last year’s Django & Jimmie with fellow icon Willie Nelson. We were honored to have him appear at our Music Biz (then NARM) Convention during his career, and encourage his fans, Country enthusiasts, and music lovers of all stripes to honor his legacy and remember the man through his music.” - James Donio, President of the Music Business Association


Rest in Peace Mr. Haggard. Your legacy will always live on.

A photo posted by Maddie & Tae (@maddieandtae) on


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