Country legend Merle Haggard died Wednesday on his 79th birthday at his home in California, The New York Times reported.
The Grammy-winning “outlaw” sent 38 country hits to the top of the charts throughout his decades-long career, one of the most illustrious in country music history. To celebrate his life, The Daily Texan compiled this list of four of Haggard’s best songs.
“Okie from Muskogee”
Arguably Haggard’s biggest hit, “Okie from Muskogee,” released in 1969, features lyrics about life in small-town America during the height of the Vietnam War. But while singing “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee,” and denouncing the icons of the authority-challenging hippie lifestyle such as beads and sandals, the song was mostly seen as a satire, becoming a favorite among those involved in the counterculture movement.
“Workin’ Man Blues”
It’s not easy getting by. Or at least that’s what Haggard preaches as he sings about “working as long as my two hands are fit to use” from the perspective of a working-class husband and father of nine. While the story isn’t autobiographical, it resonated with families around the country, becoming an anthem for those who had to work just to make ends meet.
“Pancho and Lefty”
With friend and collaborator Willie Nelson, who today released a statement calling Haggard his “brother,” Haggard recorded this cover of the Townes Van Zandt song. The lyrics tell the story of a bandit from the “deserts down in Mexico” and his friendship with a man named Lefty, who leaves for Ohio after Pancho’s death. The two trade off verses, their somber voices and simple guitar parts giving the ballad the feeling of an intimate campfire story.
“Today I Started Loving You Again”
This 1969 love song is one of Haggard’s sweetest serenades. Written with then-wife Bonnie Owens, the track later was covered by Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, among others.
For more of Haggard’s classic tunes, check out Rolling Stone’s list of the top 30 here.