• courtesy Webster & Associates
  • George Jones

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a recent reissue that compiled the complete United Artists singles of George Jones, my favorite country singer. I couldn’t remember the last time I had put on one of his albums, but he was the kind of artist who renders such gaps irrelevant: no matter how time had passed, hearing that voice made it seemed like it had never gone away. It was always there, in my brain. Jones had been in frail health for years and the power of his voice—if not his remarkable way of using it to phrase melodic lines—had diminished, but this morning, when I read that Jones had died at 81, it still felt like someone had kicked me in the throat. He wasn’t merely the greatest country singer of all time—he was my bridge into country music, the guy who erased my cynicism for the genre, and the artist who engendered the idea that it’s the singer, not the song.