UPDATE: George Jones Passes Away at Age 81 [VIDEOS]
After a week in the hospital, news broke this morning that country music icon, legend, genius and giant -- all of those words easily apply -- passed away this morning at age 81 in Nashville.
Jones entered Vanderbilt University Medical Center on April 19 for irregular blood pressure and fever. No official word on a cause of death.
Jones was in the middle of his farewell tour at the time of his death, and was scheduled to make his last stop in Louisiana this September in Marksville. His final concert was scheduled to be in November. He has also talked about an album with Dolly Parton that has yet to be released.
For many, George Jones was the consummate country music performer -- in all the good and the bad that implies. Obviously blessed with one of popular music's most incredible voices, he was also a legendary bad boy. He was an angel on the mic, but had his own demons, too -- seeing as he was just as likely to not show up to sing on that mic. If anything, George Jones was country music's most human performer. That's why we loved him so much -- he was just like us.
He got his start in the club around Beaumont in the 1950s, which makes him a bit of a local boy. In fact, one of Jones' more legendary stories happened there. His second wife had taken to hiding the keys to all of George's vehicles because of his drinking. So George mounted up his riding lawnmower and took it into town to get to the liquor store.
If you're going to talk about George, you're obviously going to have to mention Tammy Wynette -- his wife for the first half of the 1970s. They were one of music's first and most important "power couples" as they're called these days. (Blake and Miranda, are you paying attention ... at least to the mistakes they made?) He was at the height of his powers in those days, singing timeless masterpieces such as "The Grand Tour." Jones and Wynette, along with legendary producer Billy Sherill, redefined country music in those years. But it wasn't until 1980 that he released what became his signature song "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
It was the hit he desperately needed. By this time, he had declared bankruptcy and his manager had been arrested for cocaine. By the end of the 80's, however, it was tougher times. Substance abuse was catching up with him, and Nashville had become a different place than when George first got there at the end of the 1950s. By the early 90's, he was being forced into doing material such as "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair," which was a huge hit, despite the fact that Jones didn't want to record it.
By 1999, even the CMAs were snubbing him -- even though he was nominated for Single of the Year with "Choices," the show told him they would only allow him to sing a snippet of the song. He stayed home, and Alan Jackson stood up for his friend by interrupting his own performance of "Pop-A-Top" to sing part of "Choices."
Jones left us with 14 number one hits -- including:
- "White Lightning" (1959)
- "Tender Years" (1961)
- "She Thinks I Still Care" (1962)
- "Walk Through This World with Me" (1967)
- "We're Gonna Hold On" (with Tammy Wynette) (1973)
- "The Grand Tour" (1974)
- "The Door" (1975)
- "Golden Ring" (with Tammy Wynette) (1976)
- "Near You" (with Tammy Wynette) (1977)
- "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980)
- "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" (with Barbara Mandrell) (1981)
- "Still Doin' Time" (1981)
- "Yesterday's Wine" (with Merle Haggard) (1982)
- "I Always Get Lucky with You" (1983)
George Jones leaves behind four children and his wife of 30 years, Nancy Sepulvado. He also leaves behind three ex-wives -- Dorothy Bonvillion, Shirley Ann Corley and Tammy Wynette. Though never officially married, he also had a relationship with Linda Welborn, who later sued him for divorce under Alabama's common-law marriage laws.
This story is still breaking, and we'll have details as soon as they become available.