George Jones

By: Mimi Lipson
September 12, 2011

Under practically every youtube clip of GEORGE JONES (born 1931) singing is at least one commenter declaring that “this is real country music, not like that crap they’re making today,” but it was not always so. In the 1970s, there were plenty of purists bemoaning the lush strings and heavenly choirs on the countrypolitan hits he made with and without his wife and made-for-each-other duet partner Tammy Wynette. Even away from the studio, Jones’s vocal performances don’t have a classic country sound. There isn’t much gravel or twang. His lower register is buttery, his phasing jazzy, and for all the bottomless sorrow, there is no teardrop. You hear as much Bing Crosby as Roy Acuff.

The sophistication of Jones’s voice has never diminished its authenticity. His hits with Wynette tracked their stormy marriage, and it’s hard to think of a case where the arc of a private relationship has been documented so publicly — not just in mug shots or Enquirer cover stories (though there were plenty of those) but in songs, from “Golden Ring” to “We’re Gonna Hold On” to “After the Fire is Gone.” But then so many of Jones’s darkest chapters have played out in public, and as the blackouts and DUIs and divorces accumulated, his gorgeous voice grew ever more soulful until, from the haunted, coke-ravaged depths of his post-Tammy years, came his greatest performance: “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Stanislaw Lem.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).


Country, HiLo Heroes, Music