Merle Haggard Laid to Rest With Modest Funeral Filled With Music
The no-frills, quiet affair of Merle Haggard’s funeral service on Saturday (April 9) suited the legend's matter-of-fact, stripped-down approach to life. Held at his ranch in Shasta County, California, the service was officiated by Haggard’s friend and fellow country icon Marty Stuart against a backdrop formed by Haggard’s beloved tour bus, the Silver Chief.
In addition to family, several of Haggard’s country friends attended the memorial, including a strong representation of the original, surviving members of his band the Strangers. Fuzzy Owen, the band’s manager, bus driver and steel guitarist; Don Markham, trumpet and saxophone player; Biff Adam, drummer; and steel player Norm Hamlet all appeared at the ceremony.
The service, of course, was filled with music. Kris Kristofferson offered three tunes, including his tune later recorded by Willie Nelson, "For a Moment of Forever," while Stuart’s wife Connie Smith and former Stranger Ronnie Reno contributed songs individually as well as a duet of Haggard’s "Silver Wings." Nelson’s son Micah joined Kristofferson for "Pancho and Lefty." Haggard’s children closed out the ceremony with "Today I Started Loving You Again."
Haggard had been struggling with his health since late 2015, battling more than one bout of double pneumonia in less than six months and canceling a host of shows as a result. After a stay in hospice care, the icon passed away April 6, 2016 — his 79th birthday — due to the disease.
His son, Ben, says Haggard actually predicted he would die on this date. Several country artists have expressed their sadness at the news, including Nelson, who shared some short, but poignant words.
"He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him," Nelson said simply.
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