I moved to Nashville in 1989. At the time, I had no interest in country music. It never crossed my radar growing up in New Jersey, and to be honest, I had a slightly lopsided view of it as nothing more than rhinestones, fringe and sideburns shaped like Italy. That all changed when I heard George Jones sing “A Good Year For The Roses.”
In three revelatory minutes, I suddenly understood that this was soul music, in the deepest sense of the word. This tale of a broken relationship, which unfolds against the banal observations of a guy noticing the unmowed grass and garden outside his window, is absolutely one of the most heartfelt, moving songs I've ever heard. Like my other favorite singers – Frank Sinatra, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye – George Jones had the ability to make a song personal, so it sounded as if he was confiding in you a story about his own life. Which in most cases, he probably was.
George Jones, who passed away yesterday at age 81, lived and loved – and drank and fought - enough for ten men. Bouts with the bottle and drugs, numerous marriages, fortunes won and lost – for over sixty years, he poured all of the turmoil and triumphs into his art.
As he once said, “When I sing a song, I try to live the story of that song in my mind, my heart and my feelings. That's why they come out like that. I feel the hurt that people have, especially everyday working people. I'll be in the studio and just get so involved in it I almost have a tear come out.”
Here are five of George's finest moments in song: