Hear & Now

Willie Nelson pays tribute to Merle Haggard one year after his death, on what would’ve been his 80th birthday

In this May 28, 2003 file photo, country music legend Merle Haggard smiles during a news conference at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington where he and his sister Lillian Haggard Hoge donated belongings taken on their family's Dust Bowl-era move from Oklahoma to California on Route 66. Haggard died of pneumonia, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Palo Cedro, Calif. He was 79. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File) Credits:- AP Photo

One year ago, we lost country icon and close friend of Outlaw Country and Willie’s Roadhouse, Merle Haggard. Today, on what would’ve been his 80th birthday, we honor his legacy with the help of Willie Nelson.

As a tribute to his late friend, Willie premiered a new song titled He Won’t Ever Be Gone, which will be featured on his forthcoming album God’s Problem Child. Written by Gary Nicholson, the song remembers Willie’s outlaw country comrade, whose last album, 2015’s Django and Jimmie, was a musical collaboration with Willie.

At an album premiere event in Nashville this week, Willie spoke about making music and touring with the fellow Country Music Hall of Famer.

“It was one of those really good friend things that over the years we just got together more and more and enjoyed it and decided, ‘Hey, we should do more music together,'” he said. “The next thing you know, we’re touring. I was really glad to see Merle out there at this stage in his career, really out there doing a great tour with him and his band and having a No. 1 album. So I was really proud for Merle.”

The full album premiere special will air later this month on Willie’s Roadhouse (Ch. 59).

Merle Haggard gave his last radio interview on Willie’s Roadhouse a few months before he passed away. He had been forced to postpone a string of concert dates after being hospitalized for double pneumonia. He called into the Dallas Wayne show to give an update on his condition and thank his fans, the people who helped care for him and said that he really appreciated all Willie Nelson and Willie’s Roadhouse did to support his music.

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