The Backpage: George Jones RIP

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 10:05pm
By Josh Crutchmer, City Paper correspondent
050313 George Jones HoF topper.jpg

(Michael W. Bunch/SouthComm)


There was George Jones in 1977, disappearing for three weeks instead of making a New York concert he was headlining. There was George Jones missing 54 shows two years later. And there he was in 1982, in a duet with Merle Haggard, poking fun at it with “No Show Jones,” and the nickname stuck.

There was George Jones in a studio in 1979, in the wake of a public divorce from Tammy Wynette and in the throes of substance-abusing demons, struggling to make it through “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The producer had to patch takes together to compensate for his slurring. Jones figured nobody would buy the morbid ballad about devotion to the end anyway. And there he was 15 years later, proven wrong when his peers voted it the greatest song in country music history.

“I was back on top,” Jones wrote in his 1997 autobiography. “Just that quickly. I don’t want to belabor this comparison, but a four-decade career was salvaged by a three-minute song.”

There was George Jones in March 1999, two decades post “No Show,” hospitalized after a one-car accident in Franklin, a half-empty bottle of vodka found in his car. And there he was later that year, winning a Grammy for “Choices,” a hauntingly relevant ballad about his battles with drinking and drugs.

“His songs transported you to a place of heartache most men would not admit,” said Tim Russell, a musician, songwriter and producer. “Yes, it was embarrassing, but it was his life. Honesty. That’s George.”

Jones stared down seemingly every angle of scandal that social-media-era entertainers, politicians and athletes fear perpetually, and his response each time was constant, if not raspy.

His voice could silence dance halls before a note of music even played. (To wit, the a cappella, “He said I’ll love you ’til I die,” opening line of “He Stopped Loving Her.”) When he came on the radio, conversations stopped until the song did the same. To this day, nobody cares about his baggage. People care to hear him sing.

George Jones has his place in country music’s pantheon, no doubt. But he belongs in the annals of pop culture and American society too. For modern-day heroes proven fallible, he paved their road back.

George Jones taught us all a little about redemption.


Filed under: Lifestyles
Tagged: george jones

4 Comments on this post:

By: PKVol on 5/3/13 at 2:07

Vince Gill's emotions in "Go Rest High" and Patty Loveless's torment between being the professional and carrying the song when Vince couldn't and her hurt in seeing Vince's pain will live long in my memory.

Also Alan Jackson fighting through the tears to sing "He Stopped Loving Her Today" as a tribute to George. No one should have to sing that song in that setting, but Alan was a true friend to do so.

George Jone's life is a shining example of God's love and redemptiveness for all of us. George deserved neither mercy or grace, but God chose to give.

By: budlight on 5/4/13 at 12:44

PK regardless of any past postings or disagreements we may or may not have had, this posting of yours is priceless. It should win a Pulitzer Prize. Well spoken - or shall I say written -- and it's easy to see that it's written from the heart.

Alan Jackson is a prince among men. And yes, Vince was definitely broken hearted and Patty set a new standard for friendship and professionalism for me during "Go Rest High".

Every person who came on that stage was so sincere. Kenny Chesney touched my heart when he just spoke his tribute. He seemed so shy and hurting. It's funny, but I don't look at Kenny as true country; I see him as the sort of pop or new country and I think he was right not to try and sing a George song as a tribute. He truly touched my heart when he spoke of George being a father to him.

Have a good day PK.

By: govskeptic on 5/4/13 at 6:46

It was certainly a great 2:45 hour send off for George, and so glad our local stations
carried it without commercials or interruptions. CMT also carried it to the Nation's
cable viewers. Having a boat slip near George's house boat at Anchor High Marina
for a few years, I got to know him as both quite the character (as everyone knows) but
also a very swell fellow as well. R.I.P. Mr. Jones.

By: PKVol on 5/6/13 at 8:25

budlight, Thank you for the kind words, I was not necessarily a George Jones fan, but I did admire his singing and the way he lived his life publically, warts and all. I think when a person has a public career, that is the path chosen and can't comparmentalize other aspects of his/her life.

Differences of opinion and ideas (as well as opposable thumbs) are what makes us humans different from other species. We can almost always find common-ground on some subject!

I hope you too have a nice day