Eric Church Pays Tribute to Merle Haggard at Grand Ole Opry
Eric Church paid tribute to Merle Haggard during separate shows over the weekend. The "Record Year" singer bypassed his own songs for a stirring three-song medley at the Grand Ole Opry before heading west for a popular country music festival.
Video shows Church's emotional recreation of Haggard's "Footlights" and "The Way I Am," as well as "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag" from his own Sinners Like Me album (2006). His Opry set came on Saturday night (April 9), and the next day, he headlined Country Thunder in Arizona.
According to the Arizona Republic, Church included "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag" and "Heaven Is a Drink of Wine" at Country Thunder on Sunday. Chris Janson also dedicated his set to Haggard on Saturday. Both men were heavily influenced by Haggard's style and attitude, and they're hardly alone. Shortly after the "Mama Tried" singer's death on April 6 dozens, if not hundreds, took to Twitter or social media to express their grief or tell a forgotten story of meeting the Hag.
Haggard died on his 79th birthday, after a stay in hospice. His health had been failing for several months and he'd canceled nearly every show since being admitted to a California hospital in December 2015.
His funeral was on Saturday at his ranch in California.
Marty Stuart officiated, while Connie Smith and Kris Kristofferson were among those who performed at the private ceremony. Many of his original band members were in attendance, as well. Haggard's tour bus, the Silver Chief, provided a backdrop for the ceremony.
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