George Jones‘ songs are among the most iconic in the history of country music. The singer was a vital part of the fabric of country music for more than five decades.
Despite a host of personal troubles that plagued him throughout most of his adult life, Jones created a recorded legacy that is virtually unrivaled in country music. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he kept evolving and having hits well into his later years. He served as not only an inspiration, but a mentor to many of country’s biggest stars, taking a personal interest in future generations of country music.
The Boot celebrates Jones’ enormous legacy with this list of the Top 10 George Jones Songs:
“I Always Get Lucky With You”
From: ‘Shine On’ (1983)
Jones hit the charts in 1983 with a song co-written, and originally recorded, by Merle Haggard. The pair had previously collaborated in 1982, on both “Yesterday’s Wine” and “C.C. Waterback,” but when Jones’ producer, Billy Sherrill, found “I Always Get Lucky With You,” he initially didn’t tell Jones that it was a Haggard song, since the friends had gone through a recent falling out. The two eventually reconciled their differences, and Jones cut the song. They later paired up again in 2006 for an album titled Kickin’ Out the Footlights.
“The Grand Tour”
From: ‘The Grand Tour’ (1974)
Jones’ troubled marriage to fellow country star Tammy Wynette was falling apart by the time he recorded “The Grand Tour,” a deeply personal song that tells the story of a previously happy marriage ending in divorce. It proved prescient, as the couple ended their marriage the following year (and ,in a truly bizarre twist, Wynette went on to marry George Richey, who co-wrote “The Grand Tour”). The song is a longtime favorite of Jones’ fans.
From: ‘Cold Hard Truth’ (1999)
Jones pulled off a late-in-life career resurgence with “Choices.” The song seemed like it was a deep confession coming from Jones, who certainly had his share of ups and downs and questionable choices in his life and career. Jones won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for the song, and when he was asked — and refused — to perform an abridged version on the CMA Awards that year, Alan Jackson stopped midway through his own song to perform part of “Choices” in protest.
“She Thinks I Still Care”
Jones scored one of the definitive hits of his career with “She Thinks I Still Care.” Written by Dickey Lee and Steve Duffy, the song tells the story of a man who can’t get over his lost love but is in denial about it. It became Jones’ third chart-topping song, spending six weeks at No. 1 in 1962, and was subsequently covered by artists as diverse as Connie Francis, Anne Murray and Michael Nesmith.
“I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”
From: ‘Walls Can Fall’ (1992)
Jones continued to have hits well into the later years of his life. He was almost four decades into his career when he released “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” which came to be seen as a theme song of sorts for the aging legend. The song featured appearances by a number of younger artists he had influenced, including Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson, and won Jones a CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year.
“The One I Loved Back Then (the Corvette Song)”
From: ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’ (1985)
This one’s another of Jones’ later hits. The singer was well into his third decade as a reliable country hitmaker when he released Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes, which also scored a huge hit with its title song. But the fun, uptempo “The One I Loved Back Then,” with its classic line, “She was hotter than a two-dollar pistol,” gets the nod as one of the Top 10 George Jones Songs.
From: ‘White Lightning and Other Favorites’ (1959)
Jones scored the first No. 1 hit of his career with this rollicking track, which was written by the Big Bopper, who was killed in a plane crash the week before Jones recorded the song. Somewhat ironically, Jones admitted in his 1997 autobiography that he was so intoxicated during the recording session for the track that it took him 80 takes to record his vocals. The bass player on the session threatened him with physical harm after getting excruciating blisters on his fingers from re-recording the track so many times.
“The Race Is On”
From: ‘The Race Is On’ (1965)
Jones was already nearly a decade into his career when he released “The Race Is On,” written by Don Rollins. Jones recorded it and released it as the first single from the album of the same name. The track reached No. 3 in the Billboard country charts and inspired a number of cover versions, the most notable of which is a 1989 hit single from Sawyer Brown.
From: ‘Golden Ring’ (1976)
Jones’ tumultuous marriage to Wynette resulted in a number of hit duets, among them “We’re Gonna Hold On” and “Take Me.” They ended their marriage in 1975, but ironically, the now-divorced couple scored one of their biggest hits together the following year with “Golden Ring.” They paired up even later for “Two Story House” and “Near You” and teamed up in 1995 for an album project titled One.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today”
From: ‘I Am What I Am’ (1980)
Jones was in a dry spell prior to the release of “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and somewhat ironically, he didn’t want to record the song, which he told producer Sherrill was too morbid and sad for anyone to like. The song tells the story of a man who spends the last decades of his life pining for his lost love and is only able to find peace through his death. It became the biggest hit of Jones’ career, bringing about a staggering career resurgence and earning him a Grammy, an ACM Award and CMA Award. Many critics have cited the song as the greatest song in country music history, so it certainly deserves to top any list of the Top 10 George Jones Songs.