OFFSTAGE: Keith Urban’s Salute to George Jones

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

As of Tuesday (April 30) morning, the late George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was at No. 24 on the iTunes charts. That’s not bad for a 33-year-old recording. Then again, it was what made Jones the CMA male vocalist of the year in 1980 and 1981, the ACM male vocalist in 1980 and won him a Grammy. It was — and still is — one of the saddest country songs ever written and recorded. Hearing Keith Urban sing it — even just for 30 seconds on his website — reminds me of how much influence legendary artists like Jones had on today’s country singers. Urban is just sitting alone at a white grand piano, playing and singing his heart out before ending the little bit of song with “Rest in peace, George. We love you.” And then he salutes Jones. I’ve watched it about a hundred times.