On this date, April 6th, in 2016, “The Poet of the Common Man” and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Merle Haggard, passed away. On the same date 79 years earlier The Hag was born.

Merle Ronald Haggard was born in 1937, outside Bakersfield, California. His parents, Jim and Flossie, moved the family there after their farm in Oklahoma burned down, with Jim finding work as a carpenter for the Santa Fe Railroad. The family lived in an old boxcar that they converted into a home. Though struggling to make a meager living, they had a sturdy shelter and food was always on the table.

“I’ll tell you what the public likes more than anything,” he told the Boston Globe, “It’s the most rare commodity in the world – honesty.”

It would be difficult to find an artist as creative, as successful, and as stubbornly true to himself as Haggard. In between his hits, he made albums that paid tribute to the musicians who influenced him, like Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell and Bob Wills – done out of respect rather than commercial calculation. He blended elements of jazz, rock, blues and folk music into his arrangements, while staying true to the traditions of country. No matter what the current fashion of the moment was in music, Haggard always went his own way.