Merle Haggard's son has revealed that his late father warned the family he was going to die on Wednesday – 79 years to the day he was born.
"A week ago dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday, and he wasn't wrong," Haggard's youngest son, 22-year-old Ben, shared on his Facebook page in the wake of the country music icon's death. "[An] hour ago he took his last breath surrounded by family and friends. He loved everything about life and he loved that everyone of you gave him a chance with his music."
Ben continued: "He wasn't just a country singer .. He was the best country singer that ever lived."
Haggard's musical community has been paying tribute as well.
"We've lost one of the greatest writers and singers of all time," said Dolly Parton in a statement. "His heart was as tender as his love ballads. I loved him like a brother. Rest easy, Merle."
Hank Williams Jr. also shared his thoughts.
Rich Pedroncelli / AP
"Merle Haggard was an original," Williams Jr. wrote. "Not just a singer, not just a songwriter, not just another famous performer. He was your common everyday working man."
He continued: "I remember when I was 15 years old on tour with Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. They both were wondering which one of the two was going to make it. Well, they both made it. Today, ole Merle joined Waylon, George, and daddy to sing in the Heavenly choir."
so sad to lose one of the greatest American singer-songwriters of our time. Merle haggard was an outlaw and a poet and a storytelling genius. of the few songs he ever recorded that he didn’t write was one of my mom’s songs, “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You.” that's the first time I heard about him, from my mom. He will be missed https://youtu.be/p7F9Yg6IDO0
The multiple Grammy, ACM and CMA Awards winner was battling double pneumonia – which he was diagnosed with last year – and died at his home near Redding, California, according to TMZ.
CMT will air a tribute special, CMT Remembers Merle Haggard Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET.