In the months prior to his death on April 6, 2016, Merle Haggard spent much of his energy battling pneumonia. However, the country icon carried on writing when he was able. This song, recorded on February 9, 2016 at Haggard's Hag Studios, was his final recording.
The song, which features Haggard's son Ben on electric guitar, finds the country legend reflecting on his memories of leaving Bakersfield in the late '70s. His farewells in the final verse are eerily prescient.
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
The Kern River flows through the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California.
The Haggard family allowed the song to be a posthumous release as a way of "thanking everyone" for their "tremendous outpouring of love and prayers" for Merle. Ten percent of all gross proceeds from its sale were donated to homeless charities.
Charley Hebert from North Bay, Ontario, CanadaI've always loved listening to the Hag and was fortunate enough to see him in concert three times. The last time I was fortunate enough to see him was here in North Bay during his final tour in Canada, I grew up listening to Jimmie Rodgers and in my opinion Hag is the closest performer to the singing Brakeman. Kern River Blues is a fantastic piece of country music that not only reflects Merle's looking back on his life but also shows the influence of Jimmie Rodgers on his songwriting style. I will always treasure the memories I have of Merle Haggard and my late brother's guitar which he signed for me. Be at peace Hag and enjoy being reunited with your old friends and heroes who left before you.
Jonathon Lewis from Millmerran AustraliaI grew up loving Merle's music. Now at 62 I love to play it. Merle was and remains a major part of my life,seeing me through thick and thin ups and downs. My partner has now discovered Merle through me . Awesome. Thankyou Mr Haggard for everything
Tommy G from Austin, Tx"KERN RIVER BLUES" One of Merle's best songs, not from a "commercial value" necessarily, but from true emotional meaning that comes through as he recorded his last song, a great tribute to Merle, a true entertainer!