"The world may have lost the greatest country singer that ever lived," Merle Haggard said Friday (April 26) after learning of the death of fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member George Jones.
Jones, 81, died Friday morning at a Nashville hospital where he had been treated since April 18 for a fever and irregular blood pressure.
While fans knew Jones through his music, it's clear that many in the country music community lost a genuine friend. With an outpouring of tweets and written statements, many of the comments pointed to Jones' wife Nancy for literally changing his life. They married in 1983.
If Haggard had the most succinct and eloquent observation, Brad Paisley put things into perspective about what Jones life meant.
"George Jones' life is an example of so many wonderful things," Paisley wrote in a Twitter message. "How someone's God-given gifts can make this a richer, better place," Paisley said. "How one human being can overcome adversity, addiction and life-threatening obstacles time and time again. That it is not the stumble or fall that counts but the willingness to stand again. How a keen sense of humor and a twinkle in a person's eye can still prevail even after all of life's hard knocks. How mistakes, missteps and bad choices are not the end of the world if a person chooses to turn them into something good.
"And George's life is above all the strongest example of how the love of a great woman can get a man through anything. All of this made its way beautifully into every note of the greatest voice country music will ever know and one of the greatest friends you could ever have. We miss you already, George."
In his reflections, Alan Jackson alluded to one of Jones' later hits.
"Well, heaven better get ready for some great country music," Jackson said. "While George was known for his wild and crazy days, I've known him for 25 years as a friend. He had grown into a real good man. Of course, he will always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music. There'll never be another. Like the song says, 'You know this old world is full of singers, but just a few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing. Imagine life without them. ...Who's gonna fill their shoes?'"
Loretta Lynn said Jones' death will have a significant impact on all of his friends in the country music industry.
"It's a sad day for country music and a great loss for those of us who knew him," she said. "I was blessed to call George my friend. He was one of the best country singers there ever was. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Nancy and all of his family. It's a sad, sad day."
In a written statement, Billy Ray Cyrus said, "I'm stunned and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend George Jones. The very definition of a legend. Thoughts and prayers."
Other country artists offered their thoughts via Twitter messages:
"Gone ... George Jones ... man, he was country music" -- Tim McGraw
"Happy memory of me and George. You may have left us, but your music and your legacy never will. #Legend." -- Carrie Underwood
"If I'm blessed enough to make it there, I look forward to you giving me the grand tour. Rest in peace George Jones!!!!!" -- Keith Urban
"Really REALLY bad news. We've lost a country music legend. And I've lost a hero and a friend. Goodbye George Jones." -- Blake Shelton
"Man ... heartbroken. Nancy and @gjpossum had a beautiful marriage and special relationship. love you Nancy. long live the possum. gonna miss my buddy. real sad.as sad as i am, i know my friend terry eldredge @TheGrascals is devastated. no bigger fan. many nights listening to jones together. #thedoor ." -- Dierks Bentley
"We lost one of the best voices God created this morning. Our hearts are saddened to hear that George Jones has passed away." -- Faith Hill
"My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all-time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world. My heart goes out to Nancy and the rest of his family." -- Dolly Parton
"There aren't words in our language to describe the depth of his greatness. I'll miss my kind and generous friend." -- Vince Gill
"Possum, angels got a serious lead singer today -- God bless Nancy his loving wife -- what a guy -- what a voice -- that was one hell of a show!" -- Kix Brooks
"The greatest country blues singer to ever live" -- Ronnie Dunn
"So sad to hear the news about George Jones' passing. He was the definitive country singer, and I was proud to call him a friend. Who's gonna fill his shoes? Nobody ... at least not for a long, long time. Rest in peace, my friend." -- Bill Anderson
"The world will miss the great #georgejones A giant has passed on. Proud to say we were true friends. Who's gonna fill his shoes? Nobody." -- John Rich
"So sad to hear about George Jones. His voice and music will be with us forever. Thoughts go out to all his family, friends and fans." -- Martina McBride
"Wow. Sweet George SURE will be missed down here. ... But I can only imagine the celebration Heaven is having today." -- Ashley Monroe
"Country music and the world lost a true legend today. ... Mr. Jones, you will be greatly missed." -- The Band Perry
"I'll never forget the first time I heard the story in 'He Stopped Loving Her Today.' RIP George Jones. Country Legend. U will be missed." -- Jennifer Nettles
"So sad we lost 'the possum' today. R.I.P George Jones and know we didn't stop loving you today. You will live on forever in our hearts." -- LeAnn Rimes
"George Jones was my friend, and I loved him." -- Trace Adkins
"Rest in peace George Jones, There will never be another one like you and we'll miss you a bunch Buddy." -- Charlie Daniels
As news of Jones' death spread, other country artists issued statements.
"The country music singer of all time. The words 'Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes' has never been more true than today." -- Ricky Skaggs
"I met George when he came to Nashville and we became good friends. I'm really going to miss him. The world has lost the greatest singer to have ever lived." -- Mel Tillis
"George Jones may be gone but his music will live on forever. What a great voice and a great friend." -- Ray Stevens
"Country music as we know it would be vastly different if it weren't for George Jones. He's in our musical DNA. All country artists will have to figure out how to even begin to live up to his kind of legacy. 'Honky-Tonk Heaven,' here he comes ... though we're not ready to let go." -- Pam Tillis