George Jones, the country-music singer who overcame alcohol and drug addiction, bankruptcy and broken marriages to have more hit records than any other artist, has died. He was 81.
He died today at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, after being admitted with fever and irregular blood pressure, the Associated Press reported, citing Jones’s publicist, Kirt Webster.
Known for his bass-to-falsetto range and emotion-drenched vocal style, Jones appeared on the country charts 167 times. Fourteen singles, from “White Lightning” in 1959 to “I Always Get Lucky With You” in 1983, hit No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s chart. About 30 more made the top five, including “Why Baby Why,” his first national hit in 1955.
“George Jones is a national treasure and should be treated accordingly,” Keith Richards, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, told the Washington Post in a 2008 interview. He had “a unique style so often emulated, even inadvertently,” said Richards, who sang with him on a duets album released that year.
When Jones’s career started, he favored honky-tonk music, a traditional form of country. He turned toward country-pop in the early 1970s after marrying singer Tammy Wynette and collaborating with her producer, Billy Sherrill. After the marriage ended and he stopped working with Sherrill, he reverted to his early sound.
Jones’s fondness for liquor, and later cocaine, were part of his legend. Before he kicked those habits, he canceled so many concerts he became known as No-Show Jones. Another nickname, Possum, was given to him by Nashville disc jockeys because of his close set eyes and upturned nose.
Many people consider “He Stopped Loving Her Today” to be one of the greatest C&W songs ever written.
Rest in peace George.