Magazine article Variety

Country Icon Defined Bakersfield Sound

Magazine article Variety

Country Icon Defined Bakersfield Sound

Article excerpt

Country legend Merle Haggard, often called the Poet of the Common Man, whose music reflected his hardscrabble roots and hard-living ways as well as a tenderness that made him a revered songwriter, died April 6 at 79. With fellow Bakersfield, Calif., star Buck Owens, Haggard defined the West Coast sound of country music in the 1960s and '70s.

Emerging from Bakersfield's raucous honky-tonk scene of the post WWII-era, Haggard became a towering figure, producing 38 chart-topping records from 1966-88 with his longtime recording and touring band, the Strangers. Among his biggest hits were the controversial "Okie From Muskogee" - alternately seen as a reactionary Nixon-era anthem or a good-hearted spoof of heartland mores - as well as enduring and much-covered ballads such as "Today I Started Loving You Again" and "If We Make It Through December" and "Hungry Eyes." His uptempo "drinking" songs such as "The Bottle Let Me Down," "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" and "Workin' Man Blues" helped create the prototype of 1960s and '70s honky-tonk hits.

Haggard had several film and TV hits, most notably penning and singing the eponymous theme song for the 1974 TV series "Movin' On," as well as "Bar Room Buddies" and "Misery and Gin" for Clint Eastwood's 1980 film "Bronco Billy. …

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