George Jones, widely regarded as the greatest vocalist in country music history, died today (April 26) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville at age 81. George had been hospitalized last week after tests showed a fever and irregular blood pressure. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, along with four children and several grandchildren.
Country Weekly was fortunate to conduct George’s final interview this past February at his home in Nashville. “When an old car gets 81, it starts sputtering,” he told CW then. Still, he was looking ahead to his planned final show in November, an all-star salute featuring Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, Kid Rock and others. “Yeah, it’s looking great,” he said of the lineup, before adding with a chuckle, “unless they’re playing a trick on me.”
George was born Sept. 12, 1931, in Saratoga, Texas, and made his chart debut in 1955 with “Why Baby Why.” He scored his first No. 1 hit in 1959 with “White Lightning,” launching him to a superstar career in country music. His most memorable hit came in 1980 with “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” a tune that he originally balked at recording, which went to No. 1 and is now considered the greatest country song ever written.
George added to his popularity with his duets with Tammy Wynette, including “Golden Ring” and “We’re Gonna Hold On.”
George and Tammy were married from 1969 to 1975 and were beloved by fans as country’s most famous superstar couple.
His battles with alcohol were also widely reported, and led to personal and career problems. In 1983, he married Nancy Sepulvedo, whom he often credits with helping him get rid of his addictions. In 1999, he nearly died in a car accident but he recovered and resumed touring and recording. George also suffered a series of health problems in the last several years, but was scheduled to play his final concert on Nov. 22 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
George was named the Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year in 1980 and 1981. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992.
Country Weekly sends our condolences to George’s wife, Nancy, and their family.
Check out our YouTube playlist: A Perfect Ten: Our Favorite George Jones Songs
photo courtesy Webster PR