Country music legend Merle Haggard died on Wednesday (April 7th) in California after months of battling with pneumonia. His passing came on the same day as his 79th birthday, which the star predicted to his family.
Haggard's son Ben wrote the following on his official Facebook, "A week ago dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn't wrong. A hour ago he took his last breath surrounded by family and friends.
"He loved everything about life and he loved that everyone of you gave him a chance with his music. He wasn't just a country singer.. He was the best country singer that ever lived.
The Country Music Hall of Fame star enjoyed a long hit-making career including the classics "Okie From Muskogee," and "Today I Started Loving You Again".
Haggard was hospitalized back in December of last year and again last month for his battle with pneumonia. A number of country music stars paid tribute to Haggard:
Larry Gatlin: "When we lost George Jones, I said, 'Years ago someone asked Coach Bum Phillips if Earl Campbell was in a class by himself. Bum replied, 'Well if he ain't, it sure don't take long to check roll.' The same applies for the great Merle Haggard. I will miss my friend."
Ricky Skaggs: "Now in the presence of the One his sweet Mama told him about. We will miss you, but you won't be missing us!"
Ray Stevens: "We've lost a unique voice and writer of great country songs. God Bless you Merle...I just wish you'd 'made it through December' a few more times."
Sammy Kershaw: "Merle Haggard has been a huge influence in my life, to my music and my career. Thank you very much Hag and God bless you."
Pam Tillis: "I dont think its a hyperbole to say Merle Haggard was a national treasure. He was. Haggard is as American as apple pie and baseball. He was the poet laureate of country music. Try to find one songwriter in Nashville who didnt idolize Hag. You cant. Its impossible."
Aaron Tippin: "I was fortunate enough to get to play several shows with Merle and he always had great advice to give me. We have lost an icon and a legend."
Doug Gray on behalf of The Marshall Tucker Band: "After meeting and being around Country legends such as Merle Haggard, it increased my respect and my desire of getting to know him, which I accomplished. His loss will be deeply mourned by everyone in Country music as well as by those of other music genres. May he rest in peace."
Darryl Worley: "I am dumbfounded by this news. Merle Haggard was probably my greatest musical influence and my hero. I never shook his hand, but the music he made shook my soul to the core. It hurts to think about no more Haggard but honestly, we all know, that he made enough music to last us a lifetime. I just hope his passing might call attention to some of the stuff that made country music a mainstay. Maybe this generation will go back and listen to what shaped and molded the genre. I guess it's okay to veer off in a different direction but the end product needs to have the same impact. The question is, how does today's country music stack up when compared to one of the masters like Merle Haggard? Give it some thought. You don't need my help with that one. I feel confident, you'll figure it out. Thanks, Merle, for all the great songs and all the great music. It'll never be the same."
Dave Innis on behalf of Restless Heart: "Merle Haggard was a 'must see' artist, a cornerstone of country. Eloquent as a poet and singer, he was completely authentic
imitated but never equaled. Timeless music at its best. Restless Heart and all other bands owe him a great debt."