For over 25 years, Alan Jackson has topped the charts with his signature style of traditional country music. His old-school sound draws deeply from the classic crop of country legends from yesteryear. Four years ago today, Jackson performed at the memorial service for his longtime friend and musical hero, George Jones.
Jones was one of the most influential artists for Jackson, and it shows in a big way. Not only does Jackson mention the Possum in his hit tracks "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and "Murder on Music Row," but his expertise in storytelling and conveying just the right amount of emotion in each track is clearly harnessed from Jones' influence.
When Jackson was asked what song impacted him as an artist, he naturally chose Jones' 1980 career-defining track, "He Stopped Loving Her Today".
"'He Stopped Loving Her Today' is as near a perfect country song as you could ever imagine," Jackson told Wide Open Country. "[Songwriters] Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam - the story they tell along with that melody is just so sad. And then to hear George sing it - it's just one of those magical moments when the right song finds the right voice. You just can't imagine anybody else ever doing it, you know?"
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" in itself has, in fact, played an important part in Jackson's career. Before he became a household name, he performed a snippet of the song during a 1986 episode of "I Can Be a Star" on the Nashville Network with the hopes of making it big. A few years later, he broke through the country charts with his 1990 hit, "Here in the Real World".
Not long after, Jackson forged a friendship with Jones, whom Jackson has cited as one of his biggest musical heroes. The two remained close as Jackson's career blossomed over the years. They kept in touch through visits and letters up until Jones' death at the age of 81.
Below, you'll see an emotional Jackson perform a heartbreaking rendition of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" during Jones' funeral ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry House in 2013.