This black and white charcoal on paper portrait of Merle Haggard (1937--2016) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
“I’ve never been a guy that can do what people told me,” Merle Haggard once remarked. “It's always been my nature to fight the system.” In his teens, fighting the system meant dropping out of school, committing petty crimes, and doing time in prison. But by his early twenties, Haggard had turned his life around and was channeling his rebelliousness into country music. Reflecting Nashville's slick, overproduced style, Haggard helped create the West Coast alternative: the hard-driving, rough-edged Bakersfield sound. With lyrics that spoke to his blue-collar upbringing, criminal past_ and honkytonk escapades, Haggard's music struck a populist chord. He dominated the country music charts from 1966 to 1987, with at least one Top Ten single every year. During his fifty-year career, Haggard's rich baritone voice and songwriting skills became legendary. Nevertheless, he preferred to be remembered as “the greatest jazz guitar player in the world that loved to play Country.” -- National Portrait Gallery
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