(Orange, Texas)

May 4, 2013

The greatest singer sang the greatest song

Keith Kappes
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — Within 10 minutes, four of my children called, emailed or texted me that morning to express condolences on what they knew would be a personal loss.

No, it wasn’t a real family member but my kids knew many of his songs because we used to sing them as we traveled.

Like me, they were lamenting the passing of George Jones, whose 50-year singing career came to an end at 81 in a Nashville hospital.

Considering how the ole “possum” lived, his durability no doubt surprised many. He survived the physical and emotional calamities that he sang about.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, “No Show” Jones was the most admired singer in country music because he was the most imitated.

He liked to joke and even sing about that nickname from the days when his personal battles with booze and drugs forced him to cancel many concerts.

My favorite fact about him is that he was so resilient that he won three “comeback of the year” awards from different organizations.

Someone writing about his death said that his successes overcame his excesses. I wished I had coined that phrase because it perfectly describes his life.

One of my buddies often said he would like to have a penny for every teardrop shed or beer bottle emptied in a honkytonk while listening to George’s heart wrenching songs.

I like all of them but my favorite and the one most often ranked as the best country song of all time is “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Unrequited love is the saddest scenario in any romantic relationship and George made all of us feel like we knew or were like that good old boy who kept his promise of loving that woman until death.

Among the legendary stories of country music is that Jones refused to record the song until the writer added some lines about the lost love showing up for the funeral.

He said that made it real and millions of fans apparently agreed with him because it earned him a Grammy, revived his career and perhaps saved his life.

Much has been written about his awards, his four marriages and his escapades, especially driving his lawnmower to a liquor store when his wife hid the car keys or trying 83 times to get a song right in a recording session.

His 1997 autobiography was entitled “I Lived to Tell It All.”

As his lifelong fan, I’m glad that he lived to sing it all.

Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at