George Jones

He Stopped Loving Her Today

Song Review by

In the '90s, George Jones' 1980 hit "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (written by Braddock/Putman) was voted the greatest country single of all time by a selection of fans and industry insiders. It certainly is one of the high points of his long career, but calling it the greatest country song of all time is a little hyperbolic, since most of its appeal derives in how it perfectly fits Jones. Not only does it play to Jones' musical strengths, it seems to be the final chapter in the Billy Sherrill-orchestrated musical soap opera that was the stormy love affair between George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Then again, that's what gives it its strength and magic -- it's a song that only the greatest country singer of all time could convincingly sing.

In a way, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a fusion of Jones' two greatest loves -- heartbreaking country ballads and novelty songs. Some may dispute tagging the song as a novelty, since it certainly isn't a "Who Shot Sam?" or "King Kong," but the song is built on a very cutesy foundation. The opening line is, "He said, 'I'll love you 'til I die'" and the title is "He Stopped Loving Her Today" -- which means, of course, that the only reason he stopped loving is because he stopped living. Other lines have a similar, almost-comic effect -- the narrator observes that as the love-struck deceased lays in his coffin, it's the first time he's "seen him smile in years" -- but that certainly wasn't the intention of the songwriters, and Jones doesn't deliver any of the lines as if they were jokes. It just happens to be a subtext to this larger-than-life song. Producer Billy Sherrill didn't necessarily think of the song as an almost-parody, but he realized its operatic potential -- and he knew that the song would play into the public's perception that Jones was still carrying a torch for his ex-wife Tammy Wynette. So, he crafted a record that was operatic in scope, with the slide guitars and harmonicas providing little details in the opening verses, just before the strings and choirs come sweeping in, elevating the record to epic status. Jones' performance is as richly detailed as Sherrill's production, finding emotional details within a song that was pretty corny. And that's why it's seen by many country fans as the greatest single of all time, even though it's rarely been covered by other artists. It captures George Jones' greatest gift -- he can find depth and true emotion in every song, even a song that is nearly too melodramatic for its own good. The truest testament to his talent is that while "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is playing, the exaggerated sentiments never seem overblown -- they seem natural and affecting. Logically, you can break the song apart, find the bits that are too cutesy or corny, but as a record, it's a real emotional powerhouse. So much so that you begin to believe that George Jones is indeed singing about himself and his devotion to Tammy Wynette. But that, of course, was all part of Sherrill's marketing plan, wasn't it? Or was it?

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
I Am What I Am 1980 Epic
Anniversary: Ten Years of Hits 1982 Epic 3:15
First Time Live 1985 Sony Music Distribution 4:34
Super Hits 1987 Sony Music Distribution
He Stopped Loving Her Today 1988 Hollywood
Greatest Country Hits of the 80's: 1980 1989
Various Artists
Columbia / CBS Records 3:15
Smithsonian Collection of Classic Country Music, Vol. 4 1991
Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 3:12
Nothin' Like George Jones 1993 Sony Music Distribution 3:14
Country Super Hits 1994
Various Artists
Legacy 3:15
The Essential George Jones: The Spirit of Country 1994 Epic/Legacy 3:19
The 101 Greatest Country Hits [Box] 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:15
The Songs I Wanta Sing 1995 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 3:14
Country [Life, Times & Music] 1995
Various Artists
Life Times & Music 3:17
The Best of the Best of George Jones 1996 Federal Records 3:17
Super Hits of the '80s [Sony] 1997
Various Artists
Epic / Sony Music Distribution 3:17
In the Country of Country, People And Places In American Music 1997
Various Artists
Compass / Compas Records 3:17
Country's #1's 1997
Various Artists
Intercontinental Records 3:17
The 101 Greatest Country Hits, Vol. 7: Country Nights 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:15
Country Jukebox Favorites 1997
Various Artists
Intercontinental Records 3:21
Country Heartbreakers [K-Tel] 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:15
Super Hits/Super Hits, Vol. 2/George and Tammy Super Hits 1997 Sony Music Distribution 3:17
The Hits 1997 Vanguard 3:17
Country Classics [EMI #1] 1997 EMI Music Distribution
Super Hits: Cryin' Time 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:17
16 Biggest Hits 1998 Legacy 3:17
Mega Country [10 CD] 1998
Various Artists
Americana Records, Inc.
4 Country Living Legends 1999
Various Artists
Double Play Records 3:17
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:17
Exposed Roots: Country Legends 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:16
Live with the Possum 1999 Asylum / Elektra 3:50
The Ultimate Grammy Box: From the Recording Academy's Collection 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:16
Country: The Life, Times & Music Series 1999
Various Artists
Friedman Fairgfax 3:15
Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes 2000
Various Artists
Intercontinental Records 3:16
Greatest Hits & More 2000 King 3:17
No Image 2001 Sony Music Distribution 3:18
Classic Country [Direct Source] 2001
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:19
Country Heat Classic 2001
Various Artists
BMG International
All Music Guide: Cool Country 2001
Various Artists
All Music Guide / Medalist Entertainment 3:17
Country's Most Wanted [2002 Columbia River] 2002
Various Artists
Hho Multimedia 3:31
Ultimate Country Super Hits [Sony Box Set] 2002
Various Artists
Immediate / Sony Music Distribution 3:17
The Ultimate Classic Country Collection 2002
Various Artists
WEA International 3:18
Love Songs [2003] 2003 Legacy / Epic 3:15
Country Classics, Vol. 1 [Varese Vintage] 2003
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 3:17
Friends in High Places/She Thinks I Still Care 2003 Sony Music Distribution
Classic Country: The '80s 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:18
The Very Best of Love 2003 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:14
Some of the Best Live 2003 Acrobat 3:31
Goin' Country [Razor & Tie] 2003
Various Artists
Razor & Tie
All American Country 2004 Collectables 3:14
Classic Country, Vol. 1 [2004] 2004
Various Artists
CBUJ Distribution 3:16
Live in Concert 2004 Brentwood Records 3:10
Country Gold: 50 Years of Country Hits, 1980-84 2004
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 3:18
25 More Country Number 1's 2004
Various Artists
Prism Leisure
50 Years of Hits 2004 Bandit Records 3:17
Loving You Can Never Be Better 2004 Platinum Disc 3:18
The Great George Jones [Rajon 3 CD] 2005 Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 3:31
Greatest Collection 2005 Platinum Disc 3:14
Classic Country: Stars of Branson 2005
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:18
Essential Country, Vol. 2: Duets 2005
Various Artists
Mastersong
Hits I Missed...And One I Didn't 2005 Bandit Records 3:21
No Image 2005 Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Greatest Country Music Show in the World! 2005
Various Artists
Fuel 2000 3:21
The Kings and Queens of Country [Sony] 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:17
That's Country: Legends 2006
Various Artists
KRB Music 3:15
Country Fame Legends 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:19
The Essential George Jones 2006 Legacy / Epic/Legacy 3:17
Superstars of Country: Live 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:26
Country Hit Parade: Country Legends 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:16
The Legend Live! 2006 Intersound 3:29
18 Greatest 2006 Direct Source 3:17
George Jones & Mel Street 2006 Gusto Records 3:17
The Best of Classic Country: '80s 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:19
#1 Super Country 80's Hits 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 3:18
30 #1 Country Hits 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:16
Greatest Ever! Country 2006
Various Artists
Greatest Ever / Union Square Music 3:18
Greatest Classic Country #1 Hits 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:16
Ultimate Country Love Affair 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:16
No Image 2006
Various Artists
Braun Media
30 #1 Country Hits of the 1980s 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:17
Church St. Station Sessions 2007 KRB Music 3:33
George Jones & Friends: 50th Anniversary Tribute Concert 2007 New West
Country Roads 2007 Kingsroad
All Country Outlaws 2007
Various Artists
Madacy 3:15
20 Top Ten Hits 2007 Bayberry Records 3:17
20 Hits 2007 Kings Road 3:17
Superstars of Country [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:19
The Outlaws: Country Roads 2007
Various Artists
KRB Music 3:15
Pure 2007 Direct Source 3:17
100 Hits: Country 2007
Various Artists
Super D Independent Distribution / 100 Hits / DMG TV 3:17
The Race Is On: In Concert 2007 Immortal
George Jones [Kings Road] 2007 King Road Multi Media / Kings Road
Country Legends Live Mini Concert 2007 EDI Video
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Collectables
50th Anniversary Tribute Concert [DVD] 2007 New West
Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country 2008
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 3:17
The Hits...Then 'Til Now 2008 Time/Life Music 3:19
Collector's Edition 2008 Madacy 3:14
Country's 20 Classic Songs of the Century 2008
Various Artists
New Haven / Provident Music 3:18
No Image 2008
Various Artists
St. Clair
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:16
In Concert: Orange Blossom Special 2009 Forever Records / Musicpro
Playlist: The Very Best of George Jones 2009 Sony BMG / Sony Music
The Country Box [Universal] 2010
Various Artists
Universal 3:17
The Epic Years: The Box Set Series 2010 Epic / Legacy 3:17
Country's Got Heart: Lookin' for Love 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:19
Country's Got Heart [Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:19
Radio Lover 1980-1989: A Critical Anthology 2011 Raven Records 3:17
Setlist: The Very Best of George Jones Live 2011 Epic / Legacy / Sony Music Entertainment 3:48
Legends of Country 2013
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:19
32 Greatest Hits 2013 Gusto Records / Int'l Marketing Group 3:16
The Box Set Series: Country Hits of the '60s & '70s 2014
Various Artists
Legacy 3:16
NOW That's What I Call ACM Awards 50 Years 2015
Various Artists
NOW ACM 50th 3:16
Cold Hard Truth/Live with the Possum 2016 Morello Records
Classic 45's: Classic Country 2016
Various Artists
Edsel
Live at Church Street Station '88 2016 Javelin 3:26
100 Hits: Country [2015]
Various Artists
100 Hits
American Heartland: Legends of Country
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:17
At His Best Gusto 3:17
Country Hits [DVD]
Various Artists
World of Blueline
Country's Most Wanted, Vol. 3 [HHO]
Various Artists
Hho Multimedia 3:31
Country: George Jones BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 3:18
La  Légende Country
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Play Something Country
Various Artists
Sony Music
No Image
Various Artists
Legacy
The Perfect Country Collection
Various Artists
Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
Welcome to Nashville
Various Artists
Decca
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