George Jones, who died on Friday at the age of 81, was in many ways the quintessential country singer.
A hard-living, hard-drinking troubadour with a career full of ups-and-downs and a discography that included 150 hits, Jones released his first album in 1957 and his last in 2011 – and when he wasn’t showing why he got the nickname “No-Show Jones,” he showcased one of the classic voices in country history in thousands of live performances.
Also Read: Notable Celebrity Deaths of 2013
It is nearly impossible to boil down a six-decade career into a handful of performances. But these five, from his first big hit to the ballad widely acclaimed as the greatest country song ever, will serve as an introduction of sorts to an inimitable talent.
“White Lightning” – Jones’ first No. 1 hit was written by J.P. Richardson, who recorded under the name the Big Bopper and died in a plane crash two months before the song was released. In his autobiography, Jones said he showed up to the studio drunk and took 80 takes to get his vocal right.
“She Thinks I Still Care” – The classic country weepie spent six week at No. 1 in 1962. It was later recorded by a variety of artists, including Connie Francis, Anne Murray, Elvis Presley and James Taylor.
“We’re Gonna Hold On” – Jones and Tammy Wynette had a stormy five-year marriage that ended in 1975, but the union produced a number of duets that landed on the country charts. “We’re Gonna Hold On” was the first, getting to the top of the charts in 1973.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” – Jones’ career was at a low point when he reluctantly recorded the mournful ballad often called the greatest country song ever – but he was back on top when it was released in 1980. “A four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song,” he later said.
“The Grand Tour” – A room-by-room trip through a house left empty after a man’s wife leaves him, “The Grand Tour” was Jones’ greatest divorce song – even though it was released a year before the end of his marriage to Wynette.