28 Apr 2013

Country singer George Jones dies

9:52 am on 28 April 2013

US country singer George Jones, whose career spanned six decades, has died at the age of 81.

He produced his first top 10 record in 1955 with Why Baby Why and went on to have hits such as He Stopped Loving Her Today and Window Up Above.

The singer was known for his powerful and evocative voice and was at his best with cry-in-your-beer songs made extra mournful by his masterful phrasing.

In November 2012, Jones embarked on a farewell tour which was to conclude in Nashville in November this year, where he was to be joined by some of the many stars who influenced him.

News of his death brought tributes from a number of country music's top stars, Reuters reports.

"Heaven better get ready for George Jones. He will always be the greatest singer of real country music - there'll never be another," Alan Jackson said on Twitter.

Dolly Parton said, "My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world."

Jones had battled addiction to alcohol and cocaine which frequently derailed his career and at one point his reputation for canceling performances earned him the nickname No-Show Jones.

He married one of country music's most popular singers, Tammy Wynette, in 1969 but the relationship went bad as his addiction problem escalated, and Wynette claimed he once came at her with a gun. They divorced in 1975 though later resumed recording together.

At one stage one of his four wives cleared the liquor from their home and hid all the car keys so he could not go for more. Jones responded by cranking up his riding lawn mower and driving it to a bar - an escapade he chronicled in Honky Tonk Song.

Although he was heard infrequently on mainstream country radio in the later years of his career, Jones was a sought-after duet partner and won a Grammy for the song Choices in 1999.

He also won a Grammy for best male country vocal performance in 1980 for He Stopped Loving Her Today, and received a lifetime achievement Grammy last year.

Jones died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, where he had been hospitalized since 18 April with fever and irregular blood pressure, his spokesman said.