Matthew McConaughey Presents Merle Haggard Tribute at ACCAs

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"Merle forever changed the course of country music," said the Oscar winner.

Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey was on hand at the American Country Countdown Awards on Sunday night to introduce Toby Keith’s Merle Haggard tribute with the country star's legendary back-up band The Strangers.

"Merle forever changed the course of country music," the actor and country music fan said to the sold-out crowd at The Forum in Los Angeles. "Merle's a hero to country music."

The country legend, who died April 6 at the age of 79, was known for such hit songs as "Okie From Muskogee" and "Sing Me Back Home.

Two months before Haggard died of pneumonia in his California home, Keith went onstage with him in Las Vegas and performed and mentioned that the country star was clearly ill but pushed through his performance so that his backing band would get paid.

"He made it [through] about eight songs," Keith told Billboard. "He was really struggling."

Even though he kept a rigorous tour scheduling throughout his career, Haggard's illness caused him to cancel several of his shows during the last months of his life.

 

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