Friday, April 26, 2013

Losing a legend

The first record I ever bought (and, yes, for any of you young 'uns, it was a record) was "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

It's the greatest country music recording of all time. Period. Don't argue. You're not going to change my mind. (Kudos must quickly be given to its composer, Bobby Braddock.)

George Jones, the singer who performed it, didn't think it would be a hit. He bet his producer, Billy Sherrill, $100 bucks saying as such -- and lost.

The Possum is dead. He was 81. Talk about the end of an era.

George was colorful, an understatement to be certain. He drank too much at one point, snorted too much coke, fought too much with ex-wife Tammy Wynette, even drove a lawn mower to the liquor store. He earned every one of those lines on his face.

You could hear the pain in his voice. My favorites are his Epic hits: "The Grand Tour." "These Days (I Barely Get By)." "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me..." "He Stopped Loving Her Today," of course. "A Picture of Me Without You." Others.

In 1985, he sang a smash called "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?" I've been asking myself that question since Keith Whitley died and I've got news for you: it ain't this bunch of models and pop singers. If that makes me an "old fart or a jackass," Blake Shelton can kiss my you-know-what.

Picture this scenario:

One day anthropologists or music historians will be digging through what will then be old recordings. Once they finish with whatever the hell this era is called, they'll find "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

And one of them will say: "Oh. So that's what country music sounds like."

Rest in peace, Possum. You sang from your soul.

Ain't nobody gonna fill your shoes.



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