The Hag

The Life, Times, and Music of Merle Haggard


By Marc Eliot

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$24.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 10, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The definitive biography of country legend Merle Haggard by the New York Times bestselling biographer of Clint Eastwood, Cary Grant, The Eagles, and more.

Merle Haggard was one of the most important country music musicians who ever lived. His astonishing musical career stretched across the second half of the 20th Century and into the first two decades of the next, during which he released an extraordinary 63 albums, 38 that made it on to Billboard's Country Top Ten, 13 that went to #1, and 37 #1 hit singles. With his ample songbook, unique singing voice and brilliant phrasing that illuminated his uncompromising commitment to individual freedom, cut with the monkey of personal despair on his back and a chip the size of Monument Valley on his shoulder, Merle's music and his extraordinary charisma helped change the look, the sound, and the fury of American music.

The Hag tells, without compromise, the extraordinary life of Merle Haggard, augmented by deep secondary research, sharp detail and ample anecdotal material that biographer Marc Eliot is known for, and enriched and deepened by over 100 new and far-ranging interviews. It explores the uniquely American life of an angry rebellious boy from the wrong side of the tracks bound for a life of crime and a permanent home in a penitentiary, who found redemption through the music of "the common man."

Merle Haggard's story is a great American saga of a man who lifted himself out of poverty, oppression, loss and wanderlust, to catapult himself into the pantheon of American artists admired around the world. Eliot has interviewed more than 100 people who knew Haggard, worked with him, were influenced by him, loved him or hated him. The book celebrates the accomplishments and explore the singer's infamous dark side: the self-created turmoil that expressed itself through drugs, women, booze, and betrayal. The Hag offers a richly anecdotal narrative that will elevate the life and work of Merle Haggard to where both properly belong, in the pantheon of American music and letters.

The Hag is the definitive account of this unique American original, and will speak to readers of country music and rock biographies alike.

  • The Boot, "10 Best Country Music Books of 2022"
  • "A revealing biography. . . . A well-researched pleasure for die-hard Haggard fans."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "A rich and corrective portrait of an often misunderstood figure.
  • Likely to become the definitive Merle Haggard biography and will sit nicely alongside Haggard’s own two memoirs.
    Library Journal
  • The Hag is an impressive feat of solid music journalism, centered around great writing, impressive research and a truly compelling subject.”
    Americana Highways
  • “Thanks to [Marc] Eliot’s extensive research and detail-juicy execution of his findings, the 445-page deep dive meets an intended goal of being the definitive Haggard biography.” 
    Tulsa World
  • “An enlightening read… Eliot writes with authority… the text evinces a high degree of knowledge, and his insights into Haggard’s character are illuminating… The Hag makes a solid case for Haggard’s status as a musical icon, an artist who exerted a powerful and lasting influence.”
    Houston Press
  • Via a rare level of access, Haggard's depth and influence is unearthed… Such insight affords Eliot the ability to dig more profoundly into Haggard's roots to discern how the singer of 38 No. 1 country chart singles' life impacted his style and sound.”
    The Tennessean
  • “Eliot's numerous interviews—with members of The Strangers, like steel pedal guitar player Norman Hamlet, and of Haggard's family and inner circle—distinguish and anchor this well-sourced biography. The anecdotes provide a fuller picture of Haggard at his highs, such as when he received a full pardon in 1972 from then-California governor Ronald Reagan, and his lows.”
    The Washington Free Beacon
  • “An impressively thorough biography of [a] country music icon… Fans of Haggard or country music generally will enjoy The Hag as a celebration of Haggard’s contribution to the ‘Bakersfield sound,’ a distinctive variation of a genre typically associated with Nashville.”
    Law & Liberty
  • “This book is such a good read and carefully scrapes away at the facts and fictions built around The Hag to reveal a complex and troubled man, who succeeded almost in spite of himself… I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book. Love him or loathe him, and Haggard was an artist who often divided opinion with his music and attitude, he is a towering figure in American roots music and anyone who is interested in Americana would gain valuable insight into one of the genre’s most important figures from reading Marc Eliot’s fine biography. Shakespearean indeed.”
    Americana UK
  • “In his new book, The Hag, biographer Marc Eliot tells, without compromise, the extraordinary life of Merle Haggard, augmented by deep secondary research, sharp detail and ample anecdotal material for which he is known.”
    Country Music People
  • “...Thorough, workmanlike, and contains many valuable insights about Haggard’s distinctively American working-man blues."
    Claremont Review of Books

On Sale
Jan 10, 2023
Page Count
480 pages
Hachette Books

Marc Eliot

About the Author

Marc Eliot is the New York Times bestselling author of more than two dozen books on popular culture, including the highly acclaimed Cary Grant; the award-winning Hollywood’s Dark Prince; American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood; The Eagles: The Untold Story.  His books have been published in more than 25 countries.  He is a frequent contributor to documentary films, TV shows, and podcasts, is the Resident Curator of film at the Riverfront Museum in Peoria, Illinois, and a Visiting Professor at UFM – The University of Guatemala, where he teaches graduate seminars in film.  He received his MFA in non-fiction and film history from Columbia University, where he was mentored by Andrew Sarris.  He attended the “Fame” school, the High School of Performing Arts.  He currently lives in New York City, and upstate near Woodstock, New York.

Learn more about this author