Merle Haggard’s Death: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Merle Haggard

Getty "Merle Haggard: Salute to a Country Legend," A&E's tribute documentary to the country music icon, airs Monday, April 13, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT.

Country music legend Merle Haggard died on April 6, 2016, at his home in the San Joaquin Valley, California, after a brief battle with pneumonia. He died on his 79th birthday. The beloved country star recorded more than three dozen No. 1 hits in his musical career, which spanned six decades from the 1960s into the 2010s.

Haggard actually predicted he would die on his birthday, according to his son Ben Haggard.  Here’s what we know about Haggard’s death:


Haggard Struggled With Respiratory Issues for Months

Merle Haggard

A&EMerle Haggard died on April 6, 2016, after a brief battle with pneumonia.

Haggard had a history of illness leading up to his death, including clogged arteries and lung cancer. The country icon underwent angioplasty in 1995 to unblock his arteries, according to Cleveland.com. In 2008, Haggard was diagnosed with lung cancer and had part of his lung removed; however, he was back on his feet within two months of the lung procedure and continued to tour until shortly before his death.

In December 2015, Haggard was treated for a bout of pneumonia, and although he recovered, he was forced to postpone several concerts. He was hospitalized again in March after he continued having issues breathing, and just a few short weeks later, Haggard died in his California home due to complications with the respiratory infection.


Haggard Predicted His Own Death, According to His Son

According to Haggard’s son Ben, the country music legend predicted his own death shortly before he passed. After canceling several of his April concerts due to continued complications with pneumonia, he told his son that he expected to die on his birthday, April 6. Ben Haggard took to Facebook to share the heartbreaking story alongside an emotional picture of the two holding hands on his deathbed.

“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,” Ben Haggard posted on Facebook the day of his father’s passing. “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.”


Willie Nelson Was Devastated By Haggard’s Death

Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson – Pancho and Lefty (Video)Merle Haggard with Willie Nelson, "Pancho And Lefty" Listen to Pancho & Lefty: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/pancho_leftyYD Listen to your favorite Willie Nelson songs: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/_listenYD Subscribe to Merle Haggard on YouTube: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/subscribeYD Subscribe to Willie Nelson on YouTube: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/subscribeYD Follow Merle Haggard: Facebook: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/followFI Twitter: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/followTI Instagram: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/followII Spotify: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/followSI YouTube: https://MerleHaggard.lnk.to/subscribeYD Follow Willie Nelson: Facebook: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/followFI Twitter: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/followTI Instagram: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/followII Website: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/followWI YouTube: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/subscribeYD Spotify: https://WillieNelson.lnk.to/followSI Lyrics: Living on the road my friend was gonna keep you free and clean Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath's as hard as kerosene You weren't your mama's only boy but her favorite one it seems She began to cry when you said goodbye and sank into your dreams Poncho was a bandit boy, his horse was fast as polished steel He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to feel Poncho met his match you know on the deserts down in Mexico Nobody heard his dyin' words ah but that's the way it goes All the Federales say they could've had him any day They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose Lefty he can't sing the blues all night long the way he used to The dust that Poncho bit down south ended up in Lefty's mouth Day they laid poor Poncho low Lefty split for Ohio Where he got the bread to go there ain't nobody knows All the Federales say they could've had him any day They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose The poets tell how Poncho fell and Lefty's living in a cheap hotel The desert's quiet and Cleveland's cold and so the story ends we're told Poncho needs your prayers it's true but save a few for Lefty too He only did what he had to do and now he's growing old They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose A few great Federales say could've had him any day They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose #WillieNelson #MerleHaggard #PanchoAndLefty2015-01-06T19:35:16.000Z

Haggard’s death was felt deeply across the globe, with millions of fans, celebrities, and musicians paying tribute to the country star. However, fellow country music legend Willie Nelson took the news of Haggard’s death particularly hard, as the two were as “close as brothers,” according to a 2014 Rolling Stone interview with Haggard.

“He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” Nelson captioned a photo of the two together on the day of Haggard’s death. He also added a link to a YouTube video of the beloved hit single “Poncho and Lefty,” which the two recorded together in 1983.

As a songwriter, Nelson called Haggard “one of the best,” Rolling Stone reported. Nelson took part in a tribute concert for his dear friend on April 6, 2019, alongside dozens of other country music artists, including Billy Gibbons, Dierks Bentley, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, and Toby Keith.


Haggard’s Eldest Daughter Died Two Years Later on April 10

Haggard’s eldest daughter, Dana Haggard, died almost two years to the day after her father on April 10, 2018. She died in her sleep at 61 years old. Ben Haggard also shared the news of his half-sister’s death on social media, posting a sweet photo of Dana holding her father’s arm while the two smile at the camera.

“My oldest sister Dana passed away yesterday. This photo absolutely broke my heart, I know she’s hugging dads arm again. I’ll miss you sister RIP,” he captioned the Instagram post above. He believes Dana died of heartache from missing their father.

“It could have been heartache,” Ben said of his sister’s death, according to The Boot. “We just had the second anniversary [of our father’s death], and she was missing the old man. Who knows?”


Merle Haggard: Salute to a Country Legend Celebrates Haggard’s Life

A&E is airing a tribute to Haggard on Monday, April 12, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT. The description for the Haggard tribute reads, “Captures the most iconic moments from a one-night-only concert event honoring Merle Haggard and his music on what would have been his 80th birthday. Packed with captivating live performances, never-before-seen interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage with some of music’s biggest superstars.”

The tribute, which celebrates Haggard’s life and long, successful career, also features an all-star sing-along performance of “Okie from Muskogee,” as well as dozens of interviews, exclusive never-before-seen footage and special performances from some of country music’s biggest stars, according to the site.

Merle Haggard: Salute to a Country Legend airs Monday night at 11 p.m. ET on A&E. In the meantime, keep up with all the latest in TV coverage and entertainment news here.

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