Country is a genre steeped in melodrama, pain and heartbreak, but few songs in the American country music canon cut as deep as George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” It’s one of the saddest songs ever written (at least by our standards), and it’s widely considered as the best country song of all time. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is truly tragic, a deeply affecting story of one man’s lifelong devotion to his soulmate. Although, there’s some question as to when and why she stopped loving him. Did she leave him, or did she die? Either way, by song’s end we know why “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” If you’re preparing to listen for the first time, you’ll want a hanky or two near by.
George Jones was born on this day in 1931 in Saratoga, Texas. He was married four times throughout his life, including once to fellow country singer Tammy Wynette. Their marriage lasted only six years. In the years following their 1975 divorce, Jones was in a slump. He hadn’t produced a hit in years and critics had all but given up on him. In 1980, he recorded what would become his biggest song ever: “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country chart that year, and then resurged at number 21 in 2013 in the weeks following Jones’ death. Jones would have been 87 today.
Listen to George Jones perform “He Stopped Loving Her Today” at New York City’s The Bottom Line circa 1981 below.