The Great Songs: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today

by Eric Melin on May 12, 2010

in Columns,The Great Songs

George Jones has been called the Frank Sinatra of country music. He is the ultimate country crooner and has a voice that sounds like he is in severe emotional pain.

george jones i am what i amBy March of 1980, he truly was. His career was in the toilet, his life was a blur of nonstop cocaine and alcohol abuse, his third marriage (to Tammy Wynette) had been over for five years, and he hadn’t had a solo number one hit since.

The heart-wrenching “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” co-written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman and from the “I Am What I Am” album, singlehandedly revived his career. Producer Billy Sherrill uses strings, a harmonica, and steel guitar, but all sparingly and in the service of Jones’ pained voice and the sad, sad story.

The lyrics (“morbid” is how Jones once described them) and Jones’ delivery sell it:

A man still carries a torch for the woman who had left him behind and vows to love her ’til he dies. Right before the chorus kicks in with those wonderful soaring strings, though, it seems like the man has finally gotten over her. His friend, who is narrating the song says, “I went to see him just today. Oh, but I didn’t see no tears. All dressed up to go away. First time I’d seen him smile in years.”

Not so fast. “Soon they’ll carry him away. He stopped loving her today.” He loved her until the day that he died. It gives me chills every time I listen to it. I love “sad bastard” music sometimes (Mark Kozelek, I’m looking at you), and this is one of the most perfect “sad bastard” songs ever.

Jones earned his first Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980. The song was named Single of the Year by both the Country Music Association and the Academy Of Country Music, and Jones was named Best Male Vocalist in both groups.

(Pardon the cheesy video, but at least it helps you concentrate on the lyrics. The whole point of this Great Songs series is to listen to the music anyway, not watch a video!)

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The Great Songs: The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

The Great Songs: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 J. May 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_george_jones_stopped/

Good rundown of the recording setup and interviews with the producer and engineer. One of the few times when strings accompany a country song where it doesn’t sound like so much schmaltzy pop, because they were kept muted, and follow George’s voice throughout.

Reply

2 J. May 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_george_jones_stopped/

Good rundown of the recording setup and interviews with the producer and engineer. One of the few times when strings accompany a country song where it doesn’t sound like so much schmaltzy pop, because they were kept muted, and follow George’s voice throughout.

Reply

3 Eric Melin May 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Holy crap, J. That link is massive–way more recording info than I will ever be able to comprehend and lots of great stuff! Thanks!

Reply

4 Eric Melin May 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Holy crap, J. That link is massive–way more recording info than I will ever be able to comprehend and lots of great stuff! Thanks!

Reply

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