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Musicians pay tribute to Merle Haggard in campaign to bring back water in the Kern River

Proving the best way to get the word out is with a creative twist, Bring Back the Kern has partnered with musicians from Bakersfield and beyond in a tribute to Merle Haggard that also advocates for returning water to the river.

Before Haggard died in 2016, he recorded his final song, "Kern River Blues," lamenting "there used to be a river here, running deep and wide. Then somebody stole the water, another politician lied."

As the State Water Board holds a hearing to resolve water rights disputes on the Kern River, musicians will use the country legend's music to protest the river being dry.

All partnering artists recorded their own covers of "Kern River Blues," which they will post to social media to raise awareness across the community about the dry river.

The first round of participating musicians/bands includes Monty Byrom, Danny Sal, Charlie Zanne Band, Michael Monroe Goodman, Joey Kuntz and Crimson Skye.

In the coming weeks, additional renditions of the song will be shared by The Appletons, David Caploe from The Hate Drugs, Vince Galindo and more local artists.

Forty-five years ago, the Kern River moved from private hands into partial public ownership, with the city of Bakersfield taking possession of some water rights formerly owned by Tenneco West, according to the news release.

For many Bakersfield residents, this was a historic milestone that promised to correct the injustice that dried up Bakersfield's Kern River.

Since that 1976 purchase, there have been many disappointing setbacks in the fight to restore a flowing river. The lyrics of Haggard's "Kern River Blues" ring true today as current water rights fail to take into account legal obligations for the protection of the public's access to a flowing river.

Visit for more on the campaign and to see all the covers as they are shared.