Merle Haggard Honored by U. S. House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives voted on Tuesday (July 11) to recognize country legend Merle Haggard by re-naming the U.S. post office in Bakersfield, Calif., in his honor, the Los Angeles Times reports.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R - CA) represents California's 23rd district, and he brought the bill to the floor, giving an impassioned speech arguing for the honor. Haggard was born near Bakersfield, and he became one of the leading progenitors of the Bakersfield Sound, a movement that swept country music in the 1960s that featured more of an emphasis on electric guitars and simpler, more aggressive arrangements.
“Mr. Speaker, you can take a look back on American history. You can see figures standing tall who spoke for the everyday working man. Following a long tradition of Whitman and Twain, Merle Haggard was a man who knew America instinctively, because he lived an American life. It wasn’t a life for the movies, but it was all more compelling because it was all more real. That is the reason they called him the poet of the common man,” McCarthy stated.
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He recounted Haggard's difficult early life, which led him down a dark path that culminated in a stint in prison before he turned his life. While serving time at San Quentin he saw Johnny Cash perform one of his legendary prison shows, and Haggard would go on to become just as legendary and influential as the Man in Black with a string of classics including "Okie From Muskogee," “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Branded Man,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried," “If We Make It Through December,” “Ramblin’ Fever,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and more.
Haggard was honored as a BMI Icon in 1996 and recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. He won a slew of ACM, CMA and Grammy awards and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977. Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994, and died on April 6, 2016, of pneumonia.
The bill passed unanimously, and the post office at 1730 18th St. in Bakersfield will now become the Merle Haggard Post Office Building.
“Merle Haggard’s name will live on in this building, but his spirit will live on in his music that calls us to do the best we can every day God gives us," McCarthy says.
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