I am sure many other people, music writers and aficionados in particular, wrote about the death of George Jones. People pass away everyday, but for some reason his death made me stand up and take notice.
George Jones was 81. He was well-known for his voice and his perfectly coiffed hair. He was also known for drinking, duets with many, and divorce from Tammy Wynette. I can also remember exactly where I was when Tammy Wynette died, in the beginnings of my post-college life, working and planning a move to Minnesota. I remember the radio airwave voices debating her feminism and essays in the newspaper chronicling her troubles, as well as her tunes. The commentaries follow the obituaries of Jones as well. My mother, to this day, swears she doesn’t like country music, but Saturday nights during my childhood included watching Hee Haw, the slightly cheesy and goofy country music and sketch show. I remember the sparkles and the songs and the visits by George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Jones had a magical voice, beautiful phrasing, and lived a hard-scrabbled life that infused his lyrics and music. Together they gave us classic country that will live long in music and memories.
What I think is amazing is that many of us, even the non-country fans, can remember that George Jones was a drinker. A recent country hit, Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” includes the line, “Laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones,” a reference to the legend’s drinking and brushes with the law while drinking and driving. Why is it that controversy outweighs the country hits? Perhaps, because country radio tends not to play many artists over 50. While there are many oldies stations, there are few, if any, country music oldies stations. We are relegated to finding the classics on our own in bargain bin CD compilations, searches in digital music logs, or one-line references in songs by today’s singers trying to prove they are “truly country.” I refer them to George Jones and Barbara Mandrell’s duet, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.”
While he may have battled addiction for years, I’ve known several who have also waged war against dumbfounding drink and drugs. Bless those who can face their demons in the shadows and not in the glaring lights of neon and fame. As I understand it, Jones enjoyed several years of sobriety at the end of his life. I hope they were peaceful and enjoyable. Right now, I can only think of his music.
“I’m Not Ready Yet” to say goodbye. To answer your question, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” no one can fill yours. Luckily, we can look back at the “Tender Years.” We might ask “Why Baby Why” “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, but we know there was a “Golden Ring.” In our sorrow, “We’re Gonna Hold On” knowing that “We Can Make It.” “A Few Ole Country Boys” may be shown “The Door”, but it’s because we are all nursing an “Achin’ Breakin’ Heart.” George, one can feel “Near You” even when the “Bartender’s Blues” reach us, making it seem that “These Days (I Barely Get By).” We know that even as “The Race Is On,” “Loving You Could Never Be Better.” We are sure, that despite the heartbreak, you are a “One Woman Man” even as we wonder what “Her Name Is.” We just want to take “The Grand Tour” with you, maybe even celebrate “The Ceremony.” It’s “A Good Year For Roses” near the “Two Story House” where we’ll think of you. We know you are “One” “Love Bug.” Heartache and sadness may have made us wonder if “We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds.” As you sang, “She Thinks I Still Care,” we were just hoping you would “Walk Through This World With Me.”
Goodbye, Possum. You’ll be missed. I hope you’re at peace.