Merle Haggard: 1937 – 2016

(NBC News) Merle Haggard, one of the true giants of country music, has died at age 79.

Haggard passed away Wednesday, his 79th birthday, at his home in Redding, California.

Born near Bakersfield, California in 1937 shortly after his parents left Oklahoma during the Depression, Haggard was a rebellious child after his father’s death in 1945.

That rebellion that lasted well into adulthood. He served three years in San Quentin Prison following a 1957 arrest for robbery. It was there that a performance by Johnny Cash inspired Haggard to change his life.

In 1966 he hit it big with three Top 10 singles, "Swinging Doors", "The Bottle Let Me Down", and "The Fugitive".

In 1969 his song "Okie from Muskogee" reached number one on the country charts, and he would go on to have 36 more.

The winner of dozens of awards and honors, and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Haggard was still never satisfied.

"I still like that I’m one song missing, that there is one song that I ought to write that will give me the most satisfaction than any, and I’m still chasing that," he said.