SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Finally this hour, we remember a musical legend. George Jones was flat-on-his-back broke back in 1980. He'd burned through most of the money he'd made as one of country music's great all time voices with drugs and a drinking habit so mean and deep that once his wife, who happened to be Tammy Wynette, hid the car keys. So, he drove a lawn mower to a bar eight miles away. He missed so many performances for being hung-over or strung-out he was called No Show Jones. If you saw me sober, chances are you saw me asleep, he said in a memoir. Then Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam brought George Jones a ballad about a man who tells a woman I'll love you till I die and does.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HE STOPPED LOVING HER TODAY")
GEORGE JONES: (Singing) He kept her picture on his wall. Went half-crazy now and then...
SIMON: At first, George Jones thought the song was too gloomy to be a hit. But this man who felt half-crazy now and then himself sang with a ring of conviction that helped make the ballad what's often called the greatest country song of all time. George Jones was admired, beloved, rich and ten years sober when he died yesterday at the age of 81. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.