Merle Haggard, country music icon, announced Thursday that he has canceled the remainder of his January tour dates to recuperate from pneumonia in a Georgia hospital. According to the Associated Press, Haggard has been sick since leaving his home in California last week.
Touring while ill is nothing new for Haggard — in fact, as he revealed to Chris Richards before his acceptance of a Kennedy Center Honors award in 2010, he feels duty-bound to play through any illness.
At 73, two years removed from lung surgery and two months from a related chest infection, Merle Haggard should be at home recuperating on his idyllic 189-acre ranch near California's Shasta National Forest.
Instead, he's parked outside a Gulf Coast casino... "It's got its claws in me from all directions," he says, adjusting a fisherman's cap that covers thinning wisps of silver and white.
He's talking about the financial obligations that force him to spend his golden years performing in smoky casinos and beer-soaked honky-tonks across the country - a monthly $80,000 payroll he feels duty-bound to pay the musicians, managers and helping hands who have served him so faithfully through the years.
Haggard’s loyalty to his musicians and fans has affected his health before: In 2008, he had a portion of his right lung removed due to cancer, but he was back on the road again only two months later. He canceled a 2010 tour due to illness, as well.
Read the rest of Richards’ article, which details Haggard’s time in prison and struggles with his health, here.