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Sturgill Simpson ‘Disgusted’ With ACM’s Merle Haggard Spirit Award

Sturgill Simpson Merle Haggard
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

On Monday singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson took to Facebok to blast the ACMs for creating an award that celebrates Merle Haggard’s legacy. He accused the Academy of Country Music of joining others who have “hitched their wagon to his name.”

Simpson begins by explaining a story he’d heard from unnamed sources that Haggard left Nashville after a music executive told him “Kern River” was a bad song. The singer goes on to add, “I always got a sense that he wanted one last hit..one last proper victory lap of his own, and we all know deserved it. Yet it never came. And now he’s gone.”

At the heart of Simpson’s lengthy op-ed is his opinion that Music Row institutions are using Haggard’s name despite knowing the late legend didn’t care for them. He goes on to tell an unrelated story of how he and Haggard were to appear on the cover of Garden & Gun magazine, but editors decided to use Chris Stapleton instead and offered him a weak explanation for the switch.

If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bullshit they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music.

While the ACM is an organization that celebrates country music, it’s not a traditional Music Row operation as the offices are based in California. In fact the ACMs were first started as a way to celebrate artists from the west coast. Over the last 11 years Haggard was honored at four separate award shows, including in 2014 with the Crystal Milestone Award which he was on hand to accept. Miranda Lambert presented him with that award, the last of 20 ACMs he’d win in his lifetime.

Merle Haggard died on April 6, 2016. It was his 79th birthday. Lambert will accept the first ever Merle Haggard Spirit Award on Tuesday night at the ACM Honors.

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