George Jones Mastered The Art Of Creating Country Songs That Were Bigger Than Himself

“George Jones is one of two or possibly three of the most influential singers ever in country music," Charlie Daniels once noted

So often in the last fifty years of country music’s history, stars whose names grow to the point where their names glowingly resonate for eternity are artists who have paired their ability to blend outlaw sensibilities and box office appeal with songs bearing enormous and inviting hooks. Typically, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Jr., Kenny Rogers, and Willie Nelson spring to mind when having these conversations. However, in one name not being considered in that conversation, it’s important — on the day that he would’ve turned 90 years old — to wonder where George Jones falls as a global icon compared to the previously mentioned names. Ultimately, it’s in noting that “King George” had the unique ability to be a country mega-star and create songs like 1980’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today” that is actually arguably larger in appeal as songs than he was as an artist, which is important. There’s unique selflessness attached to mastery of craft that supersedes marketing jargon and wild behavior apparent here and worthy of celebration.

In a recent Daily Beast interview, broadcaster and notable country music progeny Tyler Mahan Coe — whose latest season of his Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast highlights the vocalist known as “The Possum” — says, “George Jones is to country singers as Michael Phelps is to Olympic swimmers. And all of that is speaking purely to the musical career of George Jones, a catalog which would be crucial and integral to a comprehensive understanding of the genre no matter the circumstances of his personal life.”

Yes, in the annals of the more ribald aspects of country music’s outlaw tradition, few artists are as connected to jaw-dropping, head-shaking, and deplorable stories as George Jones. However, as Coe notes — as difficult for many as it is — if you turn a blind eye to his lifestyle and tune deeply into his music, there are songs in his canon that, due to Jones performing them first, or likely best, have been elevated into the definitional canon of what country’s traditional style and essence will always represent.

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