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Merle Haggard, the Grammy Award-winning singer whose autobiographical prison songs and populist political anthems, notablyMama Tried and Okie From Muskogee, made him one of country music's most formidable and celebrated entertainers, has died in Palo Cedro, California. It was his 79th birthday.
The cause was complications from pneumonia, his manager, Frank Mull, told the Associated Press.
Haggard was widely regarded as one of the most moving singers in the country genre. New York Times music critic Joe Pareles said of a 1993 concert performance, "Dignity, pain and a sense of loss come through his singing in subtleties: a stretched syllable, a suddenly broadened vibrato, a dip to a deep baritone note, a bluesy downward slide."