Alan Jackson was emotional. His friend had just died. And the best way he knew to honor George Jones was to perform one of his songs.
Jackson picked a classic. Hours after Jones passed away on April 26, 2013, Jackson sang “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The song already was sad and wistful. But it also was emotional that night, as Alan Jackson blinked back tears.
Take a listen to Alan Jackson sing this classic and join us on the other side for some details, including what Jackson had to say about one of his idols.
Alan Jackson Calls George Jones “Greatest Country Singer of All Time”
The day George Jones died, Alan Jackson gave a concert at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheater. Jackson added Jones’ most famous song to his setlist. When he finished the song, Alan Jackson took off his hat and said: “For my friend, George Jones, greatest country singer of all time. We love you, George. Tell Jesus I said ‘Hey’.”
Earlier in the day, Alan Jackson wrote a touching tribute to Jones on his facebook page.
“Well, heaven better get ready for some great country music,” Alan Jackson said. “While George was known for his wild and crazy days, I’ve known him for 25 years as a friend. He had grown into a real good man. Of course, he’ll always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music – there’ll never be another. Like the song says, ‘You know this old world is full of singers, but just a few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing. Imagine life without them…Who’s gonna fill their shoes.’”
You can make a case that Alan Jackson can fill George Jones’ shoes. After all, he’s sold more than 75 million albums worldwide.
Jones was 81 when he died. He stayed a performer almost to his death. And although he was in his early 80s, Jones planned to sing more songs.
In August 2012, Jones announced that he’d celebrate his mighty career with one more tour. He scheduled stops in 60 cities, with a November 2013, ending in Nashville. He made it through early April and to Knoxville. That’s where his music ended. Jones was hospitalized on April 18 because of respiratory issues and irregular blood pressure. He died eight days later.
In November, there still was a George Jones concert. But Alan Jackson and friends turned it into a tribute.
Country Music Gave Jones Touching Sendoff
A week after he died, country music gave George Jones an appropriate sendoff in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry House. The service lasted almost three hours. Former first lady Laura Bush and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam gave remarks. Tanya Tucker opened the memorial service with the hymn “Old Rugged Cross.” Randy Travis sang “Amazing Grace.” The Oak Ridge Boys performed “Farther Along.” Travis Tritt performed the Kris Kristofferson classic “Why Me, Lord.” Brad Paisley sang “Me and Jesus.”
Alan Jackson also was part of the service. He loved and admired George Jones so much, he even mentioned him in two of his own songs. Jackson sang the George Jones song he loved the most, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” And later that year, Jones and George Strait performed it again at the CMA’s in tribute.
George Jones, when he released the song in 1980, said it was about a man who loved a woman so much that he died when she left him.
Alan Jackson said of the song: ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ is as near a perfect country song as you could ever imagine. And then to hear George sing it – it’s just one of those magical moments when the right song finds the right voice. You just can’t imagine anybody else ever doing it, you know?”