Merle Haggard: 10 of His Prime Hits

Remembering Some of His Defining Musical Moments

Editor’s note: As CMT remembers the life and career of Merle Haggard, who died Wednesday (April 6) at age 79, here’s a feature story from 2014 which highlights some of the icon’s most defining musical moments.

Merle Haggard was born in a Bakersfield boxcar three years after his parents left Checotah, Oklahoma, for work in California during the Great Depression. His daddy died when Merle was only 9 years old, so he found comfort in hopping trains and Lefty Frizzell records. He’s been a juvenile delinquent, a ditch digger, an oil field worker and a hitchhiker. He spent his 21st birthday in solitary confinement at San Quentin State Prison.

Haggard’s history, though downright compelling, is not why he matters. Instead, it’s because he created an epic working man’s oeuvre that no one else has managed to touch.

Whittling down the Hag’s immense catalog to a handful of hits is a tall order, but we like a challenge. So here they are: 10 gems that follow Haggard’s rise from convict No. A-45200 to American icon.

“The Bottle Let Me Down”

Embedded from