'Nobody sang better or with more heart than Merle Haggard'

In this May 28, 2003 file photo, country music legend Merle Haggard smiles during a news conference at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington where he and his sister Lillian Haggard Hoge donated belongings taken on their family's Dust Bowl-era move from Oklahoma to California on Route 66. Haggard died of pneumonia, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Palo Cedro, Calif. He was 79. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

NEW YORK (AP) Here's a sample of reaction to the death of country music star Merle Haggard.

PHOTOS | Merle Haggard through the years

"He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him." Willie Nelson.

"The greatest singer-songwriter of my lifetime is gone. Thanks for the music and friendship." Toby Keith.

"We've lost one of the greatest writers and singers of all time. His heart was as tender as his love ballads. I loved him like a brother. Rest easy, Merle." Dolly Parton.

"We played a lot of gigs together through the years, but some of my fondest memories were hanging out in a natural setting, like the time we sat there by the river in his backyard and ate bologna sandwiches. Merle was a simple man with incredible talent like no other." Tanya Tucker.

"I remember when I was 15 years old on tour with Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. They both were wondering which one of the two was going to make it. Well, they both made it." Hank Williams Jr.

"Merle Haggard was one of the greatest songwriters, performers and story-tellers that ever lived. I grew up on his music and am I'm so saddened by his passing." Kiefer Sutherland.

"When Merle Haggard sang, you paid attention. He is about as close to perfection in country music as we will probably ever have." Lorrie Morgan.

"One of the first things John and I realized we had in common was our love of Haggard songs." "Big Kenny" Alphin of Big & Rich.

"His death seems somehow unfathomable. He carried the sounds and spirit of his heroes Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie into the present day, and he wrote the songs that told, and will continue to tell, our stories." Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

"Nobody sang better or with more heart than Merle Haggard. It was an honor to spend time and share the stage with him on many occasions. Merle had a special way of making everyone around him feel like a friend, after just a short time with him." Neal McCoy.

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