George Jones: 5 Greatest

When country music superstar George Jones died today, it was like we could feel an era ending. The 81-year-old singer was one of the greats of traditional country music, one who followed in the footsteps of his idol Hank Williams Sr. and scoffed at the intrusion of rock 'n' roll into Nashville's charts.

Photos: Grand Ole Opry Stars

Jones was married four times – once to fellow country star Tammy Wynette – and divorced three. He spent years abusing drugs and alcohol, drinking himself almost to death and landing in a psychiatric hospital. Family, friends and fans came to expect bad behavior. He missed concerts so often that he earned the nickname "No-Show Jones." When Wynette hid his car keys to keep him from carousing, Jones drove the lawnmower to the liquor store.

In true country style, Jones sang about all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly. In memory of the country legend, here are five of his very best.

5. White Lightning was his first No. 1 single. Written by J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, it couldn't have been more perfect for Jones. The ode to hard liquor almost didn't see the light of day, as Jones was deeply under the influence at the 1959 recording session and had a hard time getting it right. But after 80 takes and repeated walkout threats from the bass player, the country classic turned out just right.

4. We're Gonna Hold On was one of several duets Jones recorded with his then-wife Tammy Wynette. The song's lyrics paint a picture of a couple determined to keep their love alive forever. In truth Jones and Wynette's marriage would last only two more years.

3. I Always Get Lucky With You was Jones's final trip to No. 1, debuting in 1983 – more than two decades after he first made it to the top of the charts. But it wasn’t the end of his recording career. Jones continued recording throughout his life and was planning to record an album with Dolly Parton later this year.

2. The Grand Tour is widely considered one of the finest country tracks of all time, with a transcendent collision of tragic lyrics and emotional delivery. We don't think anyone who hears it could ever doubt that George Jones truly loved and truly lost.

1. He Stopped Loving Her Today is Jones's best-known song, but when the singer was first approached with it, he didn't like it. He thought the sad lament was too morbid, and he had a hard time getting the recording right. In fact, it took him 18 months to finally complete the recording and agree to release it as a single. The result was remarkable, and survey after survey names it the greatest country song of all time.