(Gibson) Artists from the country music and beyond are reacting with sadness to the passing of Merle Haggard, who died April 6 at his home in the San Joaquin Valley, California, following a battle with pneumonia. The beloved singer-songwriter's passing comes on his 79th birthday. Below we've compiled a number of heartfelt remembrances.
"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
"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
"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.
"My heart is broken over the loss of one of the greatest country singers ever. He was an icon to me. He took me to school with his phrasing, his songwriting and style --and he was undoubtedly one of my greatest influences. Getting to sing with him several times over the years will be memories I cherish forever. He was such a great man, on stage and off." -- Gene Watson
"Merle Haggard was one of the greatest songwriters, performers and story-tellers that ever lived. I grew up on his music and am I'm so saddened by his passing." -- Kiefer Sutherland
"I am deeply saddened to hear of Merle's passing. He was a dear friend, I remember touring with him at various points throughout the 90's and those are memories that I will always cherish. I hate that he lived so far away from us these last few years, but definitely understand it. My hope is that he passed a happy and content man. I learned so much from this kind man about singing, when Merle Haggard sang you paid attention. He is about as close to perfection in country music as we will probably ever have." -- Lorrie Morgan
"We join the world of the broken hearted hearing of the death of Merle Haggard. One of the first things John and I realized we had in common was our love of Haggard songs. What a blessing to have had a chance to get to know him and work with such a legend in our career. Merle, guess you finally are on the ultimate Natural High. We will have your music in our hearts and souls and honky-tonk nights forever! God Bless the great Merle Haggard. May you fly with the Angels." -- 'Big Kenny' Alphin / Big & Rich
"'Mighty' Merle Haggard was the greatest country songwriter of ALL TIME. We shared many great memories, and I will miss him. Merle set the bar so high no one will ever top it. He refused to bend and turn to the whims of the music industry throughout the decades, and instead remained a steady ship of constant greatness that every artist could look up to and aspire to be. I had the distinct honor of becoming his friend and spent priceless time picking guitars on the back of his bus, doing videos together, and I soaked up every drop of soul from him every chance I got. You take your hat off when you shake hands with Merle Haggard. You listen and pay attention and realize that you are in the company of one of God's prize creations. I will miss him. I bet Heaven has swingin' doors today." -- John Rich / Big & Rich Read more here.