I admit I hate it when we lose a great musical legend. Somehow or another I grow to love talented singers, whether I know them personally or not. In recent years I have lost some that I knew, and it hurt deeply. But there are others I never had the opportunity to meet but that nonetheless saddened me greatly when they passed from the scene.
One of those is country music legend George Jones.
Whether you liked his music or not, you would admit that his voice, his sound, defined country music for several generations. Country insiders agree that his was the best voice ever to come along in the genre. He was just built to sing a country song. His style, his tone, his emotion, all contained the essential ingredients to make a song a country song. I admit I liked it. No, I loved it.
I did not know George Jones, but I knew people who did. I remember one evening back in the 1980s I drove to the North Carolina mountains to see my good buddies, the Southern Gospel group The Florida Boys, who were singing on a Tuesday evening. The crowd was off that night, and I mentioned to lead vocalist and manager Les Beasley, "Man, where is everybody tonight?"
Les quipped that you have nights like that sometimes, especially early in the week, but the venue was a good one, they knew the promoter very well, and it was a good paying gig, even when the crowd was off. He also mentioned that on Sunday they had sung to 15,000 people at George Jones' music park that George and his wife were running at the time in East Texas. Les said that although it was a country music venue, each Sunday afternoon George and his wife insisted that a professional Southern Gospel group be included in the lineup "for the Lord's day."
"How is George doing these days?" I asked.
Les said, "He's doing great. You wouldn't believe the change in him. He got married again to a good woman. He quit drinking and cleaned up. And he's going to church."
Others who knew George confirmed what Les had told me.
I don't know that I ever disliked a single song George Jones ever recorded. He did all kinds of songs within the country genre -- fast songs, drinking songs, sad songs, songs about unrequited love, divorce, heartache, failure, and even funny songs.
I never will forget one afternoon having to pull my car over in laughter when they played one of George's funny songs about divorce. It was titled, "The Last Thing That I Gave Her Was the Bird."
But perhaps the song that George will always be most remembered for is his heartfelt, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," about a man who could not stop loving a woman despite being away from her for many years. He got over her only when he died.
It is that song I will close with now. I hope you enjoy it. And George, Rest in Peace. Thank you for the music.
Click here for He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones.