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How Merle Haggard Changed the Course of Country Music

6 April 2016 3:40 PM, PDT | PEOPLE.com | See recent PEOPLE.com news »

Legendary country star Merle Haggard died Wednesday on his 79th birthday, a coincidence that wouldn't seem out of place in one of Haggard's many indispensable contributions to country music. But Haggard didn't just pen hits like "Okie from Muskogee," "Sing Me Back Home" and "Mama Tried." He fundamentally altered the course of country music on a granular level, introducing a sonic blueprint that would come to be known as "the Bakersfield sound," a rough-hewn counterpoint to the sweeter sounds coming out of Nashville at the same time. Born in Bakersfield, California, to Dust Bowl migrants from Oklahoma, Haggard spent large »

- Alex Heigl, @alex_heigl

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