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The Story Behind George Jones’ ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today'


The recording session for George Jones' classic song "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is so iconic, there's an entire book about it. Jones showed up at Nashville's Studio B and set about creating what would become his definitive song.

Documenting the breakdown of a man after his relationship ends, the song eventually reveals the heartbreaking reason he finally "stopped loving her today." It's hard to imagine anyone comes away from listening with dry eyes, especially with Jones's voice delivering the aching lyrics.

The song remains one of the highlights of country music history. It gathered awards - including CMA Awards for Song of the Year and a Grammy for best male vocal performance. After its release, and in 2009, it was chosen for the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board's selections.


But "He Stopped Loving Her Today", written by songwriters Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, might never have been recorded, if not for an unlikely set of events.

The story behind the song is quite interesting. At the peak of his career, Jones was among the more troubled country singers. He was battling drinking and drug problems and was famous for his missed appearances and alcohol-fueled rages. And the Grand Ole Opry was bankrupt and homeless.

Author Jack Isenhour documented the session, which Jones barely got to, in his book He Stopped Loving Her Today: George Jones, Billy Sherrill, and the Pretty-much Totally True Story of the Making of the Greatest Country Record of All Time. The recording was difficult: Jones couldn't get it done in one take and kept forgetting the melody. In fact, he kept singing it to the melody of the Kris Kristofferson song, "Help Me Make It Through The Night."

The spoken word section was the most difficult for him, however. He kept slurring the words. Jones would have to rely on producer Billy Sherrill to splice together the best moments of several takes for this three-minute song. At first, Jones hated the song, allegedly saying "Nobody'll buy that morbid son of a bitch." But, in the end, it was a masterpiece, a song many believe to be the best country song of all time. Its soaring pedal steel only adds to the emotional intensity. It was released as the lead single from I Am What I Am.


Jones was back on top with a song he hadn't expected would succeed. He later said that the three-minute tune salvaged a four-decade career. Little wonder: Jones's life at the time he recorded it made him the ideal person to deliver the sorrowful tale. 

When George Jones died at the age of 81, close friend Alan Jackson performed a rendition of the song at his memorial service. Now, decades later, many country fans still say that "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is truly the greatest country song of all time.

George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" Lyrics

He said, "I'll love you till I die"
She told him, "You'll forget in time"
As the years went slowly by
She still preyed upon his mind


He kept her picture on his wall
Went half-crazy, now and then
He still loved her through it all
Hoping she'd come back again

Kept some letters by his bed
Dated 1962
He had underlined in red
Every single 'I love you'

I went to see him just today
Oh, but I didn't see no tears
All dressed up to go away
First time I'd seen him smile in years

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they'll carry him away
He stopped loving her today


You know, she came to see him one last time
Oh, and we all wondered if she would
And it kept running through my mind
This time he's over her for good

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they'll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

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Editors Note: This article was originally published on October 1, 2020.