#1 — “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980) by George Jones
Legend has it that George Jones — the Keith Richards of country — was so drunk and stoned during the recording of this song that his daily sessions only resulted in the shortest of usable takes — a phrase here, a note there — and that it took the producer over a year to literally glue them together to create what’s been called “the greatest country record of all time.”
The narration part of the song consists of four lines Jones speaks rather than sings: “She came to see him one last time/And we all wondered if she would/And it kept running through my mind/This time he’s over her for good.”
“Pretty simple, eh?” Jones asks in his book. “I couldn’t get it. I had been able to sing while drunk all of my life. I’d fooled millions of people. But I could never speak without slurring when drunk. What we needed to complete that song was the narration, but Billy could never catch me sober enough to record four simple spoken lines. It took us about 18 months to record a song that was approximately three-minutes long.”
Decades later, when Jack Isenhour literally wrote the book about this storied song and the sessions that captured it on vinyl, he looked into that claim.
Isenhour was stuck comparing “the eyewitnesses with the paperwork” from the recording studio, that put the actual time at one month, not one year. Is the jury still out?
Does it matter?
Millions who’ve wept along to this record would say no, assuming they even know the story behind it in the first place.
But I think it does.
If you imagine this miraculous song being spliced together a few inches at a time, the end product is all the more extraordinary.
“A lot of people tried to copy what Billy did,” Bradley says, “and they’d hire that studio, they’d hire the same engineer, and they’d hire the same musicians and background singers, but they wouldn’t get it, because they were listening to the end result, and the end result was what you heard after you walked the path to get there.
Previously from Kathy Shaidle at PJ Lifestyle: