Goodbye George Jones

George Jones just died. He was 81 years old, which is a pretty remarkable run given all the drinking and god knows what all else. He’s gone. The voice is gone, never to be uttered again.

I’m not going to say anything that’s already been said a million times over—we all know that he was the sound of country western music. And if you don’t know George Jones, then right now I want you to imagine what you think a country singer ought to sound like. That’s George.

But the thing about George is he always had that deranged look in his eye. Of course he was loaded on whiskey and cocaine, probably never could see straight in the first place. And yet there was a strange and irresistable lure that I felt when I saw that screwy look in his eyes that made me think, what is this guy feeling right now? What in god’s name is going through his head?

It’s like anything else that’s interesting. It’s real. Maybe it was the pain of a wounded childhood, maybe it was a debilitating chemical addiction, maybe it was heartache, insecurity, a feeling of injustice, or sheer unbridled rage, we’ll never know. Hell, George may not even have known.

But it came through in his singing. Not like a transcription, like I said, we’re dealing in a far more ethereal and slippery business. Maybe you could call it his soul.

And souls are restless. That’s what makes anybody tick—their contradictions. The things they have inside of them that they just don’t understand. They send us drinking and drugging, or cheating, or lying, or working ourselves steadily toward a heart attack or perhaps just playing the goody two shoes role until one day we snap, throw the dog in the trash and crash the Volvo into a telephone pole.

Me personally, I’m striving for balance. Isn’t that hilarious. Well, George never knew it, at least not often, but what he did know was country western music and for that I’m grateful.