Sturgill Simpson Slams the Academy of Country Music for Exploiting Merle Haggard

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Preach. Photo: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Before country outlaw Merle Haggard died earlier this year, he made sure to take another Nashville misfit under his wing and sat down for a conversation with rising star Sturgill Simpson. Returning the favor, Sturgill has now taken on the task of ensuring Haggard's legacy isn't sullied by those who never deserved it — namely, the Academy of Country Music. Earlier today, the ACM announced its inaugural Merle Haggard Spirit Award will be given to Miranda Lambert at this year's ACM honors on Tuesday. But just ahead of the news, Sturgill posted a lengthy takedown on Facebook calling the ACM's motive for the award "utterly disgusting." (He has since clarified that his fight is not against Lambert.)

Haggard famously rejected Nashville's country constraints, essentially bucking the tradition that the ACM now celebrates — despite having been founded, in part, to give attention to Haggard and other California-based country musicians. With Haggard now dead, Sturgill argues that the ACM is "coming up with any reason they can to hitch their wagon to his name while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them." Read an excerpt from Sturgill's tirade — in which he also claims his and Haggard's interview was unfairly pulled from Garden & Gun's cover — below.

"I'm writing this because I want to go on record and say I find it utterly disgusting the way everybody on Music Row is coming up with any reason they can to hitch their wagon to his name while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them. If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bullshit they've been pumping down rural America's throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music."