Frequently named as the greatest country song of all time, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" not only changed George Jones' career, but country music as a whole. Released as the first single off of his album I Am What I Am in 1980, the song went on to become the CMA's Song of the Year for both 1980 and 1981.
Some of the song's other honors include being named as the ACM Single and Song of the Year in 1980 and being selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry. The song was a number one hit on the charts when it was first released, and entered the charts for a second time after Jones' death in 2013. That time the song fell just short of the Top 20, claiming the 21st spot on the charts.
Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, the song tells the story of a man who never gives up on the woman who got away. He continues loving her, saying that he will never lose his love for her. But finally, he does stop loving her...when he passes away.
Jones wasn't a fan of the sad tune when he first heard it, but he later gave it credit for saving his career. When he released "He Stopped Loving Her Today," Jones hadn't scored a number one hit in six years. Just when people were starting to doubt him, Jones made a miraculous comeback.
Since "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is so iconic, few artists have dared to cover it. Alan Jackson delivered a stirring rendition of the song during Jones' funeral service, and he later teamed up with George Strait to sing the song as a tribute to Jones at the CMA Awards a few months later.
Another legendary artist who had the courage to cover country's greatest song was none other than "The Man in Black." Featured on the 2003 box set Unearthed, which was released two months after Johnny Cash's death, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is the sixth track on the third disc, called Redemption Songs.
Cash's raw, deep voice lends itself well to the song, and has the chance to stand out in this recording. Like the majority of the songs on the same disc, Cash's version of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is completely acoustic. By stripping the song down to the bare basics, the emotions in the words and Cash's voice are heightened even further.
No one will ever be able to match Jones' original version of the song, but Cash did a pretty good job. Hear it yourself in the clip below and let us know what you think.
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