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George Jones

George Glenn Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. He achieved international fame for his long list of hit records, including his best-known song "He Stopped Loving Her Today", as well as his distinctive voice and phrasing. For the last two decades of his life, Jones was frequently referred to as the greatest living country singer. Country music scholar Bill Malone writes, "For the two or three minutes consumed by a song, Jones immerses himself so completely in its lyrics, and in the mood it conveys, that the listener can scarcely avoid becoming similarly involved." Waylon Jennings expressed a similar opinion in his song "It's Alright": "If we all could sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones." The shape of his nose and facial features earned Jones the nickname "The Possum".

Born in Texas, Jones first heard country music when he was seven, and was given a guitar at the age of nine. He married his first wife, Dorothy Bonvillion, in 1950, and was divorced in 1951. He served in the United States Marine Corps and was discharged in 1953. He married Shirley Ann Corley in 1954. In 1959, Jones recorded "White Lightning", written by J. P. Richardson, which launched his career as a singer. His second marriage ended in divorce in 1968; he married fellow country music singer Tammy Wynette a year later. Years of alcoholism compromised his health and led to his missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones". After his divorce from Wynette in 1975, Jones married his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvado, in 1983 and became sober for good in 1999. Jones died in 2013, aged 81, from hypoxic respiratory failure.

George Jones has been called "The Rolls Royce Of Country Music" and had more than 160 chart singles to his name from 1955 until his death in 2013. Johnny Cash once said, "When people ask me who my favorite country singer is, I say, 'You mean besides George Jones?'"

Jones tirelessly defended the integrity of country music, telling Billboard in 2006, "It's never been for love of money. I thank God for it because it makes me a living. But I sing because I love it, not because of the dollar signs." Jones also went out of his way to promote younger country singers that he felt were as passionate about the music as he was. "Everybody knows he's a great singer," Alan Jackson stated in 1995, "but what I like most about George is that when you meet him, he is like some old guy that works down at the gas station...even though he's a legend!"

Shortly after Jones' death, Andrew Mueller wrote about his influence in Uncut, "He was one of the finest interpretive singers who ever lifted a microphone...There cannot be a single country songwriter of the last 50-odd years who has not wondered what it might be like to hear their words sung by that voice." In an article for The Texas Monthly in 1994, Nick Tosches eloquently described the singer's vocal style: "While he and his idol, Hank Williams, have both affected generations with a plaintive veracity of voice that has set them apart, Jones has an additional gift—a voice of exceptional range, natural elegance, and lucent tone. Gliding toward high tenor, plunging toward deep bass, the magisterial portamento of his onward-coursing baritone emits white-hot sparks and torrents of blue, investing his poison love songs with a tragic gravity and inflaming his celebrations of the honky-tonk ethos with the hellfire of abandon." In the New Republic essay "Why George Jones ranks with Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday," David Hajdu writes:

"Jones had a handsome and strange voice. His singing was always partly about the appeal of the tones he produced, regardless of the meaning of the words. In this sense, Jones had something in common with singers of formal music and opera, though his means of vocal production were radically different from theirs. He sang from the back of his throat, rather than from deep in his diaphragm. He tightened his larynx to squeeze sound out. He clenched his jaw, instead of wriggling it free. He forced wind through his teeth, and the notes sounded weirdly beautiful."

David Cantwell recalled in 2013, "His approach to singing, he told me once, was to call up those memories and feelings of his own that most closely corresponded to those being felt by the character in whatever song he was performing. He was a kind of singing method actor, creating an illusion of the real." In the liner notes to Essential George Jones: The Spirit of Country Rich Kienzle states, "Jones sings of people and stories that are achingly human. He can turn a ballad into a catharsis by wringing every possible emotion from it, making it a primal, strangled cry of anguish". In 1994, country music historian Colin Escott pronounced, "Contemporary country music is virtually founded on reverence for George Jones. Walk through a room of country singers and conduct a quick poll, George nearly always tops it." In the wake of Jones's death, Merle Haggard pronounced in Rolling Stone, "His voice was like a Stradivarius violin: one of the greatest instruments ever made." Emmylou Harris wrote, "when you hear George Jones sing, you are hearing a man who takes a song and makes it a work of art - always," a quote that appeared on the sleeve of Jones' 1976 album The Battle. In the documentary Same Ole Me, several country music stars offer similar thoughts. Randy Travis: "It sounds like he's lived every minute of every word that he sings and there's very few people who can do that"; Tom T. Hall: "It was always Jones who got the message across just right"; and Roy Acuff: "I'd give anything if I could sing like George Jones". In the same film, producer Billy Sherrill states, "All I did was change the instrumentation around him. I don't think he's changed at all."

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed George Jones among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.