He Stopped Loving Her Today
|"He Stopped Loving Her Today"|
|Single by George Jones|
|from the album I Am What I Am|
|B-side||"A Hard Act to Follow"|
|Released||April 14, 1980|
|Songwriter(s)||Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman|
|George Jones singles chronology|
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a song recorded by American country music artist George Jones. It has been named in several surveys as the greatest country song of all time. It was released in April 1980 as the lead single from the album I Am What I Am. The song was Jones's first solo No. 1 single in six years. It was written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman. The week after Jones' death in 2013, the song re-entered the Hot Country Songs chart at No. 21. As of November 13, 2013, the single has sold 521,000 copies in the United States. Since 2008 it has been preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry. The song was ranked no. 142 on Rolling Stone's 2021 500 Greatest Songs of All Time ranking.
Recording and composition
The song was written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman and tells the story of a man whose lover leaves him; vowing to love her until he dies, he keeps old letters and photos from their previous romance and hangs on to hope that she would "come back again". Eventually a day comes when the man, in heavily veiled but graphic language, dies—"all dressed up to go away, first time I'd seen him smile in years" (i.e., in his funeral suit with a rictus grin) while "they placed a wreath upon his door and soon they'll carry him away" ("they" being the pallbearers, and the door being the man's coffin). His former lover attends the funeral to pay her respects, something his friends were unsure would happen; they conclude that this is indeed when he is no longer in love with her.
By 1980, Jones had not had a number one single in six years and, due to this and his major downward spiral into drug use following his divorce from Tammy Wynette, many critics began to write him off. Producer Billy Sherrill introduced Jones to the song in 1978 but, according to Sherrill and Jones himself, the singer hated the song when he first heard it. In Bob Allen's biography of the singer, Sherrill states, "He thought it was too long, too sad, too depressing and that nobody would ever play it. He hated the melody and wouldn't learn it." Sherrill also claims that Jones frustrated him by continually singing the song to the melody of the Kris Kristofferson hit "Help Me Make It Through the Night". In the Same Ole Me retrospective, Sherrill recalls a heated exchange during one recording session: "I said 'That's not the melody!' and he said 'Yeah, but it's a better melody.' I said 'It might be—Kristofferson would think so too, it's his melody!'" In the same documentary, Sherrill claims that Jones was in such bad physical shape during this period that "the recitation was recorded 18 months after the first verse was" and added that the last words Jones said about "He Stopped Loving Her Today" was "Nobody'll buy that morbid son of a bitch".
To the astonishment of Jones and most others involved, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" shot to number one on the country charts in July 1980. Although he had disliked "He Stopped Loving Her Today" when it was first offered to him, Jones ultimately gave the song credit for reviving his flagging career, stating that "a four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song." It was as much a tour de force for the producer as for the singer, featuring all the hallmarks of Sherrill's symphonic approach to country production, featuring cresting strings and dramatic flourishes. Had it not been for Sherrill, it is unlikely the song would have ever been recorded, such was his belief in the song, although he did share some of Jones' misgivings initially; in his 1996 memoir, Jones recalled,
Putman and Braddock killed the song's main character too soon in their early versions. Billy kept telling them to kill the guy at a different time and then have the woman come to his funeral. He gave the song to me, and I carried it for more than a year, also convinced that it needed rewriting. Billy had a notebook about an inch thick that was nothing but rewrites for "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
The success of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" led CBS Records to renew Jones' recording contract and sparked new interest in the singer. Jones earned the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980. The Academy of Country Music awarded the song Single of the Year and Song of the Year in 1980. It also became the Country Music Association's Song of the Year in both 1980 and 1981. The song was ranked number 142 by Rolling Stone in its 2021 edition of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and number 4 on its list of the 100 greatest country songs of all time.
The song became so synonymous with Jones that few singers dared to cover it. Jones recorded the song again with producer Keith Stegall for the 2005 album Hits I Missed...And One I Didn't. A recording of Johnny Cash performing the song is featured on the 2003 collection Unearthed and Trent Summar & the New Row Mob recorded it on 2006's Horseshoes & Hand Grenades.
- George Jones – lead vocals
- The Jordanaires – backing vocals
- Millie Kirkham – backing vocals
- Pig Robbins – piano
- Pete Drake – pedal steel guitar
- Charlie McCoy – harmonica
- Jerry Carrigan – drums
- unknown – acoustic and electric guitars, bass, strings
- Production staff
- Billy Sherrill – producer
- Lou Bradley – engineer
- Ron “Snake” Reynolds – engineer
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||1|
|Canadian RPM Country Tracks||2|
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||21|
|US Country Songs (Billboard)||3|
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Song Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
- Matt Bjorke (November 13, 2013). "Country Chart News - The Top 30 Digital Singles - November 13, 2013: CMA Awards Drive Sales; Eric Church "The Outsiders" #1; Taylor Swift "Red" #3". Roughstock. Archived from the original on April 21, 2014.
- "500 Greatest Songs of All Time, 2021 edition". Rolling Stone. July 20, 2022.
- Jones & Carter 1996, pp. 250.
- Allen 1996, pp. 299.
- Allen 1996, pp. 299–300.
- Jones & Carter 1996, pp. 253.
- Jones & Carter 1996, pp. 251.
- "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. June 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
- Alan Jackson - "He Stopped Loving Her Today" at George Jones' Funeral, 2013-05-06, archived from the original on 2013-05-08, retrieved 2019-02-19
- "Classic Country Music Stories". Facebook.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- "New look at Nashville Cats, 50 years later". Cbsnews.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- "Classic Tracks: George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today"". Mixonline.com. 1 July 2001. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- "Nashville Great Jerry Carrigan". Moderndrummer.com. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- "George Jones Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
- "Best of 1980: Country Songs". Billboard. 1980.
- Allen, Bob (1996). George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend. St Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312956981.
- Jones, George; Carter, Tom (1996). I Lived to Tell it All. Villard. ISBN 978-0679438694.