Legend of country Merle Haggard dies on his 79th birthday
Country music giant Merle Haggard, who celebrated outlaws, underdogs and an abiding sense of US national pride in such hits as Okie From Muskogee and Sing Me Back Home, has died aged 79 on his birthday.
Haggard's manager Frank Mull said the country icon passed away in Palo Cedro, California, of pneumonia.
A masterful guitarist, fiddler and songwriter as well as singer, the Country Music Hall of Famer recorded for more than 40 years, releasing dozens of albums and number one hits.
Along with Buck Owens, Haggard and his band The Strangers helped create the Bakersfield sound, which was characterised by the unique twang of Fender Telecaster and its mix with the traditional country steel guitar sound.
It also featured new vocal harmony styles in which the words were minimal, and a rough edge not heard on the more polished Nashville sound recordings of the same era.
By the 1970s Haggard was aligned with the growing outlaw country movement, and he continued to release successful albums through the 1990s and into the 2000s.
In 1994 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He did several stints in prison, which affected his songwriting output and attitude to life. He also got to know two death row inmates, which influenced some of his most famous songs.