The word “legend” usually makes an appearance at some point when discussing Merle Haggard. It’s an acknowledgment of his artistry and his standing as “the poet of the common man.” It’s a tribute to his incredible commercial success and to the lasting mark he has made, not just on country music, but on American music as a whole.
It would be difficult to find an artist as creative, as successful, and as stubbornly true to himself as Haggard. In between his hits, he made albums that paid tribute to the musicians who influenced him, like Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell and Bob Wills – done out of respect rather than commercial calculation. He blended elements of jazz, rock, blues and folk music into his arrangements, while staying true to the traditions of country. No matter what the current fashion of the moment was in music, Haggard always went his own way.