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Garth Brooks Sings 'Happy Birthday' to Merle Haggard

updated 04/06/2014 at 11:15 PM EDT

originally published 04/06/2014 11:55PM

Garth Brooks presented Merle Haggard with the ACM Awards Crystal Milestone Award Sunday, honoring the 77-year-old's contributions to country music on a very appropriate occasion: Haggard's birthday.

George Strait and Miranda Lambert led the band in a performance of Haggard's most famous songs, including "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," "Mama Tried" and "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive."

Garth Brooks Sings 'Happy Birthday' to Merle Haggard| Academy of Country Music Awards, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert

Merle Haggard

Ethan Miller / Getty

The standing ovation that greeted Brooks as he walked onstage made it clear he's still a beloved figure in country music. Yet the moment belonged to Haggard – and the impromptu performance of "Happy Birthday" the onstage crew bestowed upon him was sweet proof of the music man's eternal popularity.

"Country music's been great to me all my life," Haggard said, "and it's great again tonight."



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