Defining country: a playlist
George Jones's passing has inspired volumes of words, but none can touch his singing. Torn in pieces, soaked in tears and bad booze, haloed in cigarette smoke and neon, he could gut a honky tonk in a single note, the reverberations of loss and regret echoing like the broken heart he seemed to endure.
A Pentecostal kid who took to singing on street corners, then bars, the fire burned him almost alive. Upon meeting his hero Hank Williams, the original country outlaw told him, "Quit singing like Roy Acuff and start singing like yourself." He did.
With #1s in each of five straight decades, the Country Music Hall of Famer defined what country music was--and inspired generation after generation with his ability to twist a note until it was wrung dry. He lived like a country song: alcoholism, cocaine, seedy managers and many wives, including his stormy third marriage to Tammy Wynette that was as fraught and kinetic as their duets.
People loved to sing with--and about--him. Beyond Wynette, there was a plethora of admirers lined up: Barbara Mandrell, Alan Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Randy Travis, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles. Gram Parsons and Keith Richards both cited him as an influence; Jim Lauderdale and James Taylor wrote "The King of Broken Hearts" and "Bartender's Blues" about him.
Rather than reading about him, just listen. The songs will say more than musicologists, fans, and historians can ever write about the man they call Possum.
"He Stopped Loving Her Today"
"I'll Be Over You (When The Grass Grows Over Me)"
"The Grand Tour"
"Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes"
"I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair"
"Things Have Gone To Pieces"
"A Good Year for the Roses"
"Walk Through This World With Me"
"The Race Is On"
"If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Your Memory Will)"
"The Love Bug"
"I Always Get Lucky With You"
"The Corvette Song"
"Say It's Not You"
"Nothing Could Hurt Me (Half As Much As Losing You)"
"Loving You Could Never Be Better"