On This Day: George Jones Releases ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ in 1980

by Clayton Edwards

No one can deny that the George Jones classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” is a phenomenal song. In fact, several people say that it is the best country song ever recorded. Others would say that it is the saddest country song to ever hit the airwaves. At the end of the day, they’re both right. The song embodies all that makes country music special. The storytelling in the song is unparalleled. At the same time, it speaks directly to our deepest emotions. “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” isn’t a song that you listen to. It’s a song that you feel in your bones every time it comes on.

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” is more than just an amazing song. It is also an incredibly important one. The song revived George Jones’ career.

Possum hit the scene in the mid-fifties. His first single, “No Money in This Deal,” in 1954. It took Nashville by storm but didn’t do much else. Five years later, he topped the charts for the first time with “White Lightning.” From there, George Jones rode a wave of success and excess. He collected chart-toppers and acclaim and shot to the peak of stardom. At the same time, the bottle was dragging him down to rock bottom. His booze-soaked antics are almost as famous as his hit songs.

By the time 1980 rolled around George Jones hadn’t topped the charts in six years. Critics began to write Jones off. He had almost drunk his fame away.

George Jones Makes a Heart Wrenching Comeback

Legendary Nashville producer Bobby Sherrill showed the song to George in 1978. However, he originally hated the song. In Bob Allen’s book George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend, Sherrill talked about Jones’ initial reaction to the song. “He thought it was too long, too sad… and that nobody would ever play it.” Furthermore, Jones hated the melody of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

It took some convincing, but Sherrill finally talked George Jones into recording the song. He released it as the lead single for his 1980 album I Am What I Am. It hit the top of the charts and stunned the country music industry. It occupied the top spot for eighteen weeks. “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” was exactly what Possum needed to get back on track.

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” didn’t just put George Jones back on the top of the chart. It also brought him some several new awards. Jones took home the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. Then, the Academy of Country Music named it Single of the Year for 1980. The Country Music Association named it Single of the Year for both 1980 and 1981.

Alan Jackson performed the song several times to honor George Jones after his death in 2013. “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” also found its way back to the country chart that year and peaked at number 21.