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.
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.