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|
|George Jones singles chronology|
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a song recorded by American country music artist George Jones that 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 No. 1 single in six years. The melancholy song was written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman. The week after Jones' death 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 into the National Recording Registry.
Recording and composition
By 1980, Jones had not had a number one single in six years and many critics began to write him off. However, the singer stunned the music industry in April when "He Stopped Loving Her Today" shot to number one on the country charts and remained there for 18 weeks. The song was written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman and tells the story of a friend who has never given up on his love; he keeps old letters and photos from back in the day and hangs on to hope that she would "come back again". The song reaches its peak in the chorus, revealing that he indeed stopped loving her when he died and the woman does return—for his funeral. In a lesser singer's hands, the song might have sounded corny or even comical but Jones' interpretation, buoyed by his brilliant delivery of the line "...first time I'd seen him smile in years", gives it a mournful, gripping realism. It is consistently voted as the greatest country song of all time, along with "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams and "Crazy" by Patsy Cline.
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". 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 was 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 1995 memoir, Jones recalled, "Putnam 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 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.
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles||1|
|Canadian RPM Country Tracks||2|
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||21|
- 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.
- Jones, George; Carter, Tom 1995, pp. 250.
- Allen, Bob 1996, pp. 299.
- Allen, Bob 1996, pp. 299-300.
- Jones, George; Carter, Tom 1995, pp. 253.
- Jones, George; Carter, Tom 1995, pp. 251.
- "George Jones – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for George Jones.
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