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George Jones: The Possum‘s Enduring Musical Legacy

Full Name George Glenn Jones
Birthday September 12, 1931
Birthplace Saratoga, Texas, United States
Death Date April 26, 2013 (age 81)
Spouse Tammy Wynette (m. 1969–1975)
Children 4, including Georgette Jones
Genres Country, Gospel
First Album Grand Ole Opry‘s New Star (1956)
Signature Song "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980)
Awards 2 Grammys, Country Music Hall of Fame

George Jones was an American country music superstar whose smooth emotional vocals made him one of the greatest voices in country history. With his unique phrasing and evocative delivery, Jones helped define the Nashville sound with enduring classics like "She Thinks I Still Care" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today".

Early Life and Musical Influences

George Glenn Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas on September 12, 1931. He grew up immersed in gospel and country music, gaining his first guitar at age 9. Early influences like Hank Williams shaped Jones‘ honky-tonk roots as he started performing on local radio by his mid-teens.

After serving in the Marines, Jones signed with Starday Records and released his first hits in 1954 like "No Money in This Deal" and "Why Baby Why". He soon caught the attention of the Grand Ole Opry and made his debut there in 1956.

Rise to Stardom in the 1960s

Jones became a country star after switching to the Mercury Records label and working with producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement. Hits like "White Lightning" and "She Thinks I Still Care" established his smooth-voiced style. From 1959 to 1962, Jones had 14 Top 10 country hits. He toured with the likes of Johnny Cash, Ray Price and Patsy Cline during his rise.

Jones‘ singing made him a force in the increasingly polished Nashville sound. Songs like "The Race Is On" and "Love Bug" showcased Jones‘ pure vocal power matched with interpretive phrasing. His emotional delivery brought nuance to weepers and a swing to honky-tonk romps.

Duets with Tammy Wynette and Concept Albums

After over a decade of hits, Jones‘ success skyrocketed again in the early 1970s. He recorded a series of duet albums with his third wife Tammy Wynette, producing enduring hits like "We‘re Gonna Hold On" and "Golden Ring".

Jones also pioneered releasing concept albums structured around a central theme. His 1965 LP The Race Is On was one of the first narrative albums in country. Singles like "Walk Through this World With Me" demonstrated his masterful vocal control.

The Zenith: "He Stopped Loving Her Today"

The crowning achievement of Jones‘ career came in 1980 with the release of "He Stopped Loving Her Today". The soaring yet restrained ballad about a man‘s unrequited love until his death is regarded by many as the greatest country song ever recorded. It revived Jones‘ success and won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards.

Later Career and Touring Until His Death

Even as country music evolved, Jones‘ voice never went out of style. He continued touring extensively and released albums into his late 70s like Hits I Missed…And One I Didn‘t (2005). Songs like "I Don‘t Need Your Rockin‘ Chair" asserted that the country legend had plenty left.

Though his radio hits tapered off, Jones won a Grammy in 1999 for "Choices" and earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2012. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, acknowledging his pioneering impact on the genre. Jones continued performing over 150 shows annually until his death from fever complications in 2013.

Lasting Influence and the Possum‘s Legacy

George Jones‘ velvety voice and phrasing that accentuated lyrics left a mark on generations of vocalists across country music and beyond. Artists from Garth Brooks to Elvis Costello have praised Jones‘ technique and emotive power. Many singers – from Blake Shelton to Brad Paisley – consider him the greatest country vocalist ever.

As a singer, Jones defined the vulnerability and pathos in country ballads. As a stylist, he perfected phrasing each word and note for maximum poignancy. As a legend, George Jones‘ music remains the benchmark for honky tonk heartbreak. 40 years later, nothing stops fans from loving the Possum today.

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