Country music legend Merle Haggard died after a battle with double pneumonia Wednesday, his birthday. He had just turned 79. The singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist has influenced many country artists thanks to his decades-spanning career and standards like “Okie from Muskogee” and “Fightin’ Side of Me.”
“He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” Willie Nelson said in a statement to EW.
Toby Keith wrote, “The greatest singer songwriter of my lifetime is gone. Thanks for the music and friendship. R.I.P. Hag.”
LeAnn Womack added, “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.”
RELATED: Merle Haggard’s Life in Pictures
Below, see more tributes from various country musicians and celebrities.
On February 21st, 2010… I had the blessing of meeting and spending time with this man before his show at the Rosemont Theatre in Chicago, IL. He let me photograph him backstage a couple of hours before he went onstage to a beloved crowd and took them to CHURCH. I got him to laugh at a joke at this very moment… My Grandfather was one of his hugest fans, as am I, so this was a very special day for me. The Country Music World has lost a LEGEND and a hell of a man. #RIPMerleHaggard