This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #102: He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones.
When I was a young boy growing up on Cape Breton Island in the 1970s, one of the big TV shows at the time was The Tommy Hunter Show. Mr. Hunter was a Canadian Country Music star and was one of the most well-known television personalities our country had produced up until that point in time. His show was a musical variety show. Each week he would welcome a veritable whos-who of Country Music royalty from Canada and the United States. It was on The Tommy Hunter Show that I first saw and heard singers like Porter Wagoner, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Glen Campbell, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Roy Clark, Wilf Carter, Ian and Sylvia Tyson and, of course, Canada’s sweetheart, Anne Murray.
But, one of my biggest memories of the show was the saga of George Jones and Tammy Wynette that seemed to play out before my eyes like an afternoon soap opera. I have to be honest and admit that, although Country Music was (and still is) quite popular back home, I was never much of a fan, myself. However, like many impressionable young kids, I watched these two people appear on screen; seemingly so compatible and happy. I heard through the grapevine that Jones was a drinker and that he had been married several times but, he seemed changed, somehow, with Wynette and when she sang, “Stand By Your Man”, that seemed to make complete sense. To my way of thinking at the time, a woman would have to have an awful lot of love and patience to be with someone who may have been an alcoholic. So, when Tammy Wynette looked lovingly at George Jones on The Tommy Hunter Show and sang her hit song, it made her lyrics seem very real. Consequently, a few years later, when their D-I-V-O-R-C-E became final and George Jones appeared on screen singing, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, I knew he was singing about Wynette and, even if he was a drinker, he seemed so heartbroken that you couldn’t help but feel every line in that song.
I guess when you get right down to it, singing songs that touch the hearts of ordinary people is one of the things that makes Classic Country Music so endearing to so many. When we listen to our favourite songs, we often do so because we can relate to the lyrics in some way that makes them seem personal to us. So, when George Jones and Tammy Wynette sang to, and about, each other on TV or on the stages of places like The Grand Ole Opry, it left a lasting impression that remains strong even today.
As it turned out, the song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was rejected by George Jones several times before he ever agreed to record it. Initially, he felt it was too slow and too depressing of a song and that no one would willingly want to hear it. But, after losing his marriage to Tammy Wynette, Jones saw the song in a different light. For those who don’t know the song, it is about a man who is pining away for a lost love and wondering if she ever thinks about him anymore because he still thinks about her every day. Then, life passes by and the man eventually dies and his family and friends are left to wonder if his lost love will come to his funeral. Well, SPOILER ALERT!!!….she does. After all this time, she still thought enough about him to show up for one last goodbye. And, that’s how the song ends.
Well, needless to say, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is a tale well-told, that tugs at the heartstrings of those who hear it. In real life, when Tammy Wynette passed away….even though she and Jones had both re-married others, he attended her funeral and sat near the very front of the church. When Jones passed away a few years ago, fellow Country Music star (and great friend), Alan Jackson sang “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. When he finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. He stepped away from the microphone with a final, “I Love you, George”, as he wiped away his own tears.
George Jones had the biggest hit of his career with “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. It reached the #1 spot on the charts and has gone on to be hailed as one of the top Country Music songs of all-time. In fact, George Jones holds the distinction of being one of the very few singers, in any genre, to have a #1 hit in six consecutive decades, starting in the 1950s and ending in the 2000s. He was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, as well as, every Country Music Hall of Fame that exists. George Jones may have been married four times and lived a life marked by alcohol abuse but, he remains one of the most beloved people to ever play Country Music. When I think back to those days, sitting in front of the TV, watching The Tommy Hunter Show, one of the things I remember most was how friendly and respectful Jones seemed to be toward Tommy Hunter. I always appreciated that, as a Canadian.
So, wthout further delay, here is the legendary George Jones with one of Country Music’s all-time classic songs, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. Enjoy.
PS: Ironically enough, the video I found was not from the Tommy Hunter Show (because I couldn’t find one from that show) but, it is from another Canadian Country Music show called The Ronnie Prophet Show. Ronnie Prophet opened for George Jones on some of his Canadian tours so, in this clip, George Jones is returning the favour by appearing on Prophet’s show.
The link to the video for the song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones, can be found here.
The link to the official website for George Jones, can be found here.
The link to the video of Alan Jackson singing, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” at George Jones’ funeral, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Alan Jackson, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.