Country music legend Merle Haggard has made the decision to cancel the remainder of his February shows so he can focus on recovering from a severe bout of double pneumonia.
“He is still feeling weak from his recent struggle with double pneumonia and has decided to seek further treatment for it,” Haggard’s publicist Tresa Redburn said in a statement to CMT Hot 20 Countdown on Wednesday, February 3. “Merle is hopeful he will be back on the road later in the spring. Check back at www.merlehaggard.com for updates.”
The announcement came after Merle cancelled his show on Tuesday in Riverside, California, and his scheduled performance Wednesday with Kris Kristofferson, according to Entertainment Weekly. Although he showed up in Riverside, he was unable to perform and issued a statement on Tuesday night explaining that he is still too weak to take the stage.
“Thank you to the fans who came out tonight in riverside!” Haggard wrote. “Sadly I’m just not strong enough yet. This man was praying behind my bus and made me realize how much you all care. Thank you so much.”
The 78-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer spent 11 days last month in California’s Eisenhower Medical Center trying to overcome an intense case of double pneumonia, along with severe pain and trouble breathing. Earlier this month, Haggard spoke to Rolling Stone about his health issues, admitting that he is lucky to be alive.
“I was coughing all the time. I thought, ‘These damned old buildings have got something in them.’ I just didn’t recognize it as what it was.” he said. “I always felt better after I’d work because of the exercise that it gave to my lungs. When I play, I feel better when I come off.”
Haggard continued to perform until his December 2 show in Palm Desert, California. While there, he started having even more trouble breathing and had to cancel the show. Haggard then headed to the hospital, where he stayed for nearly two weeks.
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“It was like suffocating, like having a pillow in your face,” Haggard said. “It’s a terrible thing; people die from it all the time. I had a double case of pneumonia about the size of grapefruit on each side. I had a pain that went all the way around from my belly button all the way around to my back. I asked the doctor, ‘What was that pain?’ He said, ‘It was death.'”
Haggard’s tour was scheduled to start on January 30th in New Mexico. However, he cancelled the first two dates due to the high elevation. Although he has had to cancel several dates since then, Merle Haggard plans on continuing his tour, and will perform on the scheduled March dates.
“I’m really lucky to be alive,” Haggard said. “It could’ve gone in another direction had I messed around a little more. I’m just hoping I’m fully able.”
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Even though he is cancelling his February tour dates, Merle is still hard at work and is spending his time recuperating and writing new songs. He’s also planning on recording new material with his band for another album with Willie Nelson.
“I’m still on top of things,” he said. “I’m doing a lot of writing and I’m just proud to be alive and hope that people realize that. I really sincerely thank everybody for the prayers.”
[Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press]