Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Eightieth Birthday to a Superstar

George Jones celebrates his 80th birthday on September 12, 2011
Not many legends are still around.  Johnny Cash, Porter Waggoner, Bill Monroe, and Patsy Cline are all gone.  Elvis has been gone a long while, and old old Hank, Marty, and Lefty even longer.  Thankfully, we still have George Jones and Ralph Stanley.  (There are others no doubt.)  God has been good to George Jones, even though Jones, just like every one of us, has not always been very good toward God. 

Jones's drinking songs, like his songs about heartbreak, blues, and dejection, are born out of his many miserable experiences.  He has suffered from alcohol use and abuse, broken marriages, and at least one major wreck that should have ended it all.  As he says in one song, "from the blood from my body I could start my own still."

Just as those two great William's, Shakespeare and Faulkner, plummeted the depths of human tragedy and woes via their dramas and novels, so Jones has revealed the pain, misery, and struggles of man's failed efforts to find perfect bliss in this vale of tears.  Country Music is truly a Saturday night honky-tonk and Sunday morning revival kind of experience.  This is not to endorse every celebration of the honky-tonks, cheating songs, or drunkeness.  It is to realize the depth of reality in so many of those songs.

Perhaps the greatest song Jones ever did (and there are so many) is "He Stopped Loving Her Today."  Unrequited love has never been so powerfully portrayed as in this song.  It breaks my heart every time I hear it.  When Jones first looked at the song, even he thought it was too **** depressing (to use his words, sort of) to appeal to people.  But we are all depressed sometimes.  The blues and their first cousin from the south, sad country songs, all bespeak the human condition.  If you are not sad or heartbroken or lonely right now, someone in your family, neighborhood, or church is.  And whether that sorrow is self-inflicted, the result of events beyond your control, or due to being sinned against, it is a glimpse into the abyss, a journey into the underworld, a vision of the heart of darkness.  (Country music is, after all, great literature, sectioned up into 3 minute experiences with a fiddle and a steel guitar for emphasis.)

Sometimes the fault of Jones and other country singers is the lack of balance in giving answers to man's plight and misery.  Yes, this is a miserably depressing, lonely, heart-breaking world.  We could all drink ourselves into oblivion due to the fallen condition of mankind and the miseries of our own hearts. But God has spoken. There is hope.

Jones not only knows of the hope in this world, but he has celebrated it.  After his near-fatal car crash some years back, he appealed to Vestal Goodman of the Happy Goodman Gospel Singers.  Along with his fourth wife, Nancy, these two women helped George recover a vision of the Cross. Prior to that wreck, his wife worked to free him from his many years of alcohol and drug abuse.  Like June Carter Cash's labors with her famous singer husband, George's wife exemplified the saving Gospel to his life.
[For an amazing interview with George Jones about his life and faith, see]

Not all country songs are about the tragic dimensions of life and love.  Jones has had several hits that celebrate women.  Songs such as "She's the Rock that I Lean On" and "A Picture of Me Without You" are fine examples of a woman being man's source of stability, a true help-meet.
 God's blessings on dear old George Jones on his eightieth birthday.  I hope he continues to sing on this side of eternity.  I can also hope to meet him on this side as well.

George Jones at age 80--"Still Doin' Time"--on the stage

Jones' marriage to Tammy Wynette resulted in many a fine duo, but that marriage of two great singers did not last.  They sang, "We Gonna Hold On," but they didn't.

1 comment:

  1. I don't mean to disparage those of you who don't have this special designation, but I was country when country wasn't cool.
    Great post, Dad.