April 26, 2013

He Stopped Loving Her Today

A Friday music post, but not about an L.A.-based artist. Instead, I woke up this morning to the news that George Jones has died.

Well, goddamn. I wasn't too surprised -- thanks to his fan page on Facebook, I knew he was in the hospital.  What was shocking to me is how old he was -- 81.  That's a long time to hang on with the lifestyle Jones lived --- he was kind of the Ozzy Osbourne of country when it came to substance abuse and hard drinking and wild living. (I don't think there's any story about snorting ants, but he did shoot out the floor of his tour bus.)

My daddy lived a similar kind of lifestyle (sans the cocaine abuse), and like George, slowed down and cleaned up a bit in his later years -- but my dad's later years only lasted until he was 64.  It was six years ago this month that he passed away. I sometimes joked with my dad that he had the devil on his side, but that seems to be much more true with George.  I mean, scientists should really have access to study the man's iron liver.
I mention my dad so much because George Jones will always remind me of him -- my dad loved his music, and played it loudly, sometimes so loud that the neighbors could enjoy it too. In the early 1980s, George's career had a big resurgence at the same time that my dad went through a series of meltdowns and binges and bad decisions, and Jones and a handful of other country artists provided the soundtrack.

Jones' voice was a honky-tonk yowl of pain and heartbreak and late nights after last call with nowhere to go. His songs remind me of that time in my family's history, and oh, the stories I could tell.

My dad's own favorite George Jones song was his classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," about a man who vowed, "I'll love her 'til I die."  When that song came out, it took me forever to figure out that the man had actually died: "I went to see him just today/oh but I didn't see no tears/all dressed up to go away/first time I'd seen him smile in years."  But I didn't need anyone to explain the sadness of that warble, or why my dad would dab at this eyes when the song was through.

But I'm not going to link to that song, and I'm not going to play you the song that most reminds me personally of my daddy, "Bartender's Blues," because that song hits too close and too precisely on all my hurting places. It's barely noon here, people. I can't start drinking this early, even if it is Friday.

So here's a happy medium, or rather, here's a maudlin one:
If Drinking Don't Kill Me, Her Memory Will.

This song triggers a lot of memories for me, too. But not quite enough to make me chuck the afternoon away and instead go down to the 7-11 for a pack of Marlboros and a pint of Beam.

Happy Friday, folks. Have a good weekend, and go call your daddy while you still can. If not, listen to some George, and wallow with me.

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