My knowledge of country music does not run deep. It's not that I don't like it ... it's more that it rarely enters my music world, and when it does, it's often when old rockers turn to country (Jerry Lee Lewis being the best example). Looking back, I've seen the following people in concert, who might be considered part of the country music world: Rosanne Cash, Iris DeMent, Joe Ely, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss & Union Station, k.d. lang, and Willie Nelson. Not exactly a cross section of the vastness that is country music.
And so it is with George Jones, who died on this date in 2013. I have vague memories of "White Lightning", which was a hit when I was a couple of months shy of six years old, and "The Race Is On" in 1964. Somewhere along the way, I became aware in an intellectual way of Jones' importance, enough so that I'd consider a blog post like this. But I don't want to make it sound like I am a George Jones fanatic, or that I know his work in depth. If memory serves, I only ever owned two of his albums, and I was probably influenced there by rock critic Robert Christgau, who covered the Jones catalog in depth in his Consumer Guide. Thus, the first of those two albums was All-Time Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, which received an A- from Christgau but which is not highly regarded in general, because while it contains a lot of great hits, the versions on this album were re-recorded, not the originals. So it has "White Lightning" and "The Race Is On", but not in the versions that first caught my attention (I'm not sure I noticed the difference). There is also "Window Up Above" and "She Thinks I Still Care", among other classics. A few years later, I picked up I Am What I Am (Xgau: A-), which included the record often called the greatest country song of all time, "He Stopped Loving Her Today".
Not to be disrespectful, but I watched the TV show Hee Haw occasionally, and it featured all of the great country singers, so I probably saw Jones there, as well.
Here are a few George Jones songs. First, "White Lighning" on Hee Haw in, I believe, 1969:
"The Race Is On" from 1986 at Farm Aid:
"He Stopped Loving Her Today":
Bonus: a couple of those other country acts I've seen. Rosanne Cash, "Seven Year Ache":
And k.d. lang, "Crying" (if you only watch one of these videos, make it this one):