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Music / George Jones

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The Possum.

"If we could all sing like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones."

George Glenn Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) was, to say the least, one of the most important Country Music singers of all time, and given his influence on a large number of very important rock-and-roll singers, was arguably one of the most important pop singers as well. Active from the early fifties to his death in 2013, he has had an incredibly fruitful career that includes nearly 170 single releases in all. He is widely regarded as one of the most skilled and distinctive vocalists in country music history, and is considered by many country music artists and scholars to be the greatest ever.

Among all of his songs, "He Stopped Loving Her Today", a song written about his break-up with his then-wife Tammy Wynette, is often cited as the best country music song of all time. (Ironically, its only real competition for the title is "Stand By Your Man" a song Tammy Wynette wrote about her relationship with Jones). Others, such as "A Good Year for the Roses" and "The Grand Tour", have attained legendary status in country music canon.

Jones first recorded for Starday Records in the 1950s, followed by stints on Mercury, United Artists and Musicor. He was no stranger to the troubles that often plagued A-list musicians in his time, either. By 1968, he began drinking heavily and missing shows. His marriage broke up, but he soon wed fellow singer Tammy Wynette, with whom he would record a large number of duets. A dispute over the label's rights regarding duets between the two led to him jumping ship for Wynette's label, Epic Records, where he would stay from 1971 until 1990.

This change in labels also shifted him to a more ballad-oriented sound, with which he would stick. After he and Wynette divorced, Jones started hitting the bottle and cocaine, causing him to miss more shows and earn the Fan Nickname "No-Show Jones." He went to rehab, but it didn't do much until 1983; nonetheless, the hits kept coming until the end of the decade. By 1990, a switch to MCA brought a couple of critically-acclaimed albums but no hits. By the time he moved to Asylum Records in the end of the decade, his traditional sound was highly out of favor against the crossover-happy sound still present today. Nonetheless, Jones left a massive influences on the neotraditionalist acts of the eighties, and his songs are widely recorded to this day. In terms of influence and lasting impact, he is arguably the second most important male country artist after Hank Williams.

George Jones passed away on April 26, 2013 after being hospitalized for over a week for a fever and irregular blood pressure.

George was portrayed by Michael Shannon in the 2022 Miniseries George & Tammy.

Tropes present:

  • Advertised Extra: On Shooter Jennings' "4th of July" — he sang a few bars of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" at the end, and still received chart credit despite his part being cut out of the radio edit.
  • Break-Up Song: "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is one of the best examples out there. The breakup is because the man in the song died.
  • Call-and-Response Song: The last chorus to "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair" has ten other country stars echoing Jones's lead.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: He interestingly alternated back-and-forth between lighthearted and serious phases in his career. After scoring his first #1 hit with the uptempo "White Lightning" in 1959, he abruptly switched to serious ballads ("The Window Up Above", "Tender Years", "She Thinks I Still Care"). Then by the mid-60s he went back to more jivey material ("The Race is On", "Love Bug"), only to get back into ballads by the The '70s, starting with "A Good Year for the Roses". After Billy Sherrill took over as his producer, Jones stayed with the more serious material, with a new added element of Melodrama, but also did jokier things like "Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half as Bad as Losing You)" and "Her Name Is". By the latter half of The '80s he was mainly releasing heartwarming and comical songs as singles. In a lot of ways it seemed like the instability of his personal life found its way into his music.
  • Destructo-Nookie: The lyrics to "Leavin' Love All Over The Place" celebrate it:
    The lady at the rooming house
    Served our eviction notice yesterday.
    While we were pickin' up our clothes
    She started screaming somebody's gonna pay.

    She said it takes a dozen carpenters
    To fix the broken bed and drapes
    But we just never learned to love
    Without leavin' love all over the place.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: Played with on "The One I Loved Back Then". Both choruses refer to the same thing, and the dual meaning is achieved through misdirection (the other person in the song thinks that the chorus is referring to a woman, not a car).
  • Hair of the Dog: Comedy aversion in "Root Beer":
    Well, I sent my pretty baby to the neighborhood store
    My head was vibrating from the night before
    I said: "You'd better hurry", as she went out the gate
    My system needs a helper and I don't mean a steak
    She had a cold six pack when she got back
    but it was... ahhhhh! hiccup ... Root Beer!
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: "White Lightning" is told from the POV of the moonshiner's son.
  • History Repeats: The theme of "Golden Ring", a duet he recorded with Tammy Wynette. A young couple in love see a golden wedding ring in a pawnshop. The man buys the ring and they get married in a chapel. Gradually they fall out of love and divorce. The ring ends up back in the pawnshop where a young couple in love see it...
  • I Hate Past Me: "Choices":
    I've had choices since the day that I was born
    There were voices that told me right from wrong
    If I had listened, no I wouldn't be here today
    Living and dying with the choices I've made
  • It Will Never Catch On: He was very reluctant to record "He Stopped Loving Her Today," thinking that it was too morbid and no one would ever want to play it. Today it's considered one of the greatest country songs of all time, if not the greatest.
  • "London, England" Syndrome: His duet with Tammy Wynette, "(We're Not) The Jet Set", has the couple recounting their travels to Rome (Georgia), Athens (Texas), and Paris (Tennessee).
  • Long Runner: Around 60 years.
  • Love Is a Drug: "Tennessee Whiskey".
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: "I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair" had Vince Gill, Mark Chesnutt, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie, Alan Jackson, Pam Tillis, T. Graham Brown, Patty Loveless, and Clint Black participating in a call-and-response at the end.
  • Murder Ballad: "Radio Lover" has a DJ pre-record a show so that he can sneak out of the station and kill his wife and the man she is cheating on him with.
  • Never Say "Die": "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: "Her Name Is..." uses notes on a clavinet to self-censor ("Her name is [note note note] / Her eyes are [note]..."). Longtime producer Billy Sherrill has often said the blanks referred to ex-wife Tammy Wynette.
  • Spelling Song: "Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?"), his 2001 duet with Garth Brooks.
  • Spoken Word in Music: "The Ceremony" (with Tammy Wynette) features an uncredited pastor conducting a wedding ceremony, and "The Telephone Call" features dialogue from Jones's stepdaughter Tina.
  • Standard Snippet: Occurs in "Golden Ring", after the line "In a little wedding chapel later on that afternoon / An old upright piano plays that old familiar tune", a piano can be heard playing the first four notes of "Here Comes the Bride".
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The Unreliable Narrator of "She Thinks I Still Care" lists all the things he does that demonstrate that he's still in love with his ex, then denies that he's still in love with her.
    Just because I ask a friend about her
    Just because I spoke her name somewhere
    Just because I saw her then went all to pieces
    She thinks I still care
  • Wham Line: In "The Grand Tour", the last stanza, revealing she wasn't the only one that left:
    "As you leave you'll see the nursery
    Oh, she left me without mercy
    Taking nothing but our baby and my heart."
  • Vocal Evolution: His voice became warmer and richer over the years, reaching its peak in The '70s and The '80s. By The '90s, he had begun to sound older and more weathered. Jones also told Billboard that he noticed that after quitting smoking in 1999, his voice became higher again, and he could no longer hit the low notes in "The One I Loved Back Then", but he could sing some of his earlier songs more easily.