On April 6, 2016, the world lost a legend. Merle Haggard, who had been battling pneumonia for months, passed away on his 79th birthday. In the months leading up to his death, the country icon was forced to cancel a couple of tours after it was suggested he take a break from the road and rest up. But of course, Merle couldn’t stay away from music for too long and would walk across the road to his studio to record new material he’d written while in the hospital.

On February 9, he recorded his final song titled Kern River Blues, a rumination on leaving Bakersfield in the ’70s set to a shuffling Jimmie Rodgers blues rhythm. The song includes such poignant lyrics as “the blues back in the ‘30s [is] just like the blues today” and “they used to have Kern River runnin’ deep and wide. Then somebody stole the water, another politician lied.”

Merle’s family wanted to find a way to thank his fans for the tremendous outpouring of love and prayers, and decided to release the song and premiere it on Willie Nelson’s exclusive SiriusXM channel Willie’s Roadhouse (Ch. 59), which was temporarily renamed Merle’s Roadhouse for the weekend following his death.

After being debuted by Dallas Wayne at 5 pm ET on May 12, the song will become available at www.merlehaggard.com and iTunes for purchase with 10 percent of all gross proceeds from the song going to homeless charities.

Kern River Blues

I’m leavin’ town tomorrow
Get my breakfast in the sky
Well, I’m leavin’ in the early morning
Eat my breakfast in the sky
Be a donut on a paper
Drink my coffee on the fly

I’m flying out on a jet plane
Gonna leave this town behind
I’m flying out on a jet plane
Gonna leave this town behind
They’ve done moved the city limits
Out by the county line

Put my head up to the window
Watch the city fade away
Put my head close to the window
Watch Oildale fade away
The blues back in the ‘30s
Just like the blues today

There used to be a river here
Runnin’ deep and wide
Well, they used to have Kern River
Runnin’ deep and wide
Then somebody stole the water
Another politician lied

When you closed down all the honky tonks
The city died at night
When you closed down all the honky tonks
The city died at night
When it hurt somebody’s feelings
Well, a wrong ain’t never right

Well, I’m leaving town forever
Kiss an old boxcar goodbye
Well, I’m leaving town forever
Kiss an old boxcar goodbye
I dug my blues down in the river
But the old Kern River is dry

Credits: Merle Haggard (vocals), Ben Haggard (electric guitar), Scott Joss (acoustic guitar), Doug Colosio (bass), Norman D. “Norm” Hamlet (steel guitar), Jimmy Christie (drums), Renato Caranto (horns), Ace Otten (engineering), Joe Corey (engineering), Benny Quinn (mastering), William Chiaravalle (cover designer), Myriam Santos (cover image).

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