George Jones died today, in Nashville, at age 81. He was the greatest country singer of his generation, and perhaps the greatest country singer, ever.
Jones lived a rough-and-tumble life and was legendary for his unpredictable behavior, but his musical talent was unquestionable. It was gigantic. Jones had an authentic country voice, with a lilting twang and an ability to wring every ounce of emotion out of his songs. He was a real person and real performer, not some phony, blow-dried, cowboy hat-wearing pop star masquerading as a country singer. I loathe “modern” country, but I could listen to George Jones and Merle Haggard and Patsy Cline all night long – and just might do so tonight.
I’ve posted the YouTube video of Jones singing The Grand Tour (and being introduced by his one-time wife, Tammy Wynette) because the title seems apt, but also because the song is a good illustration of his awesome prowess as a singer. It’s a simple song about a man who has been left by his wife, but Jones turns it into a poignant, deeply moving glimpse into the shards of a life.
I don’t often urge people to do this or buy that, but if you’ve never listened to country music, give George Jones a try. He and his music were pieces of Americana, and we may not see their like again.