As a child of the 1980’s I have vivid memories of Merle Haggard being a dominate player on Country Music Radio. If he wasn’t being played by the local station, I could always count on my dad to play the 8 tracks in his truck on the way home from the sitter in the afternoon. Merle Haggard was a staple of my childhood and I’m not alone.

Since passing on his birthday yesterday, I have been struck by the number of news outlets that have covered his passing and praising him for the legend that he is. He was never the most handsome of performers. He wasn’t even close to having he most skill on a guitar and his vocals didn’t make him the most talented man on music row, so what was it about “The Hag” that made him so special to millions of people? It was his authenticity.

Merle Haggard was able to influence American Culture because he had the courage to be himself every time he walked on stage. There was no pretense that he was something that he wasn’t. He wrote songs about a life that he lived and never forgot where he came from.

As speakers, as leaders, as people trying to influence others, his example is a good one to follow. We may not all have the story that makes for a great movie, but our stories can be great if we tell them as we live them and if we have the courage to be ourselves when we tell them.

There will never be another Merle Haggard and anyone trying to be has already missed the point. 

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