When Merle Haggard passed away on April 6, the country music community was left in shock. One particular country legend took the news especially hard, since he gives Haggard all the credit for inspiring his love of the genre.
Following the news of Haggard's death, George Strait took to social media to express his thoughts and feelings about the man and artist he admired. Strait wrote that Haggard's music is what ultimately pushed him toward a career as a country artist.
"It's hard to believe we won't be able to see him anymore," he wrote on Facebook. "I honestly think that had it not been for him, I would not have chosen the path that I chose."That same evening, Strait discussed the impact Haggard's death had on him during an interview with The Morning Hangover. He shared the story of the first time he met Haggard, and how from that moment on he knew that country music is what he wanted to do:
"When I was in the Army and stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, you know Merle came there...And I remember I was playing at the NCO club that night, and before my little gig I got to run over there, and I kind of snuck in and saw Merle. It just blew me away. That's what I wanted to be like. I wanted to be like 'The Hag.'"
As we now know, Strait went on to become one of the biggest names in the industry himself, earning the nickname "The King of Country Music." But if it wasn't for Haggard, then Strait may have never though about pursuing a career as a country artist.
In 2014, Haggard and Strait came together for an unforgettable performance of Haggard's song, "The Fightin' Side of Me" during the ACM Salute to the Troops. You can tell by the look on Strait's face how overjoyed he was to be performing with the man who got him started in country music in the first place.
You can watch Haggard and Strait's performance below, and you can also listen to the rest of Strait's interview about how Haggard influenced his career.
Our prayers go out to all of Haggard's many friends and loved ones. May he rest in peace.
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