Choosing the best George Jones songs is no easy feat for any country music fan. With 13 No. 1 hits and countless fan favorites, The Possum is one of the most beloved singers in history. The songs that spanned his fifty year career have stood the test of time and remain touchstones of the country genre.
Over the years, the Texas-born singer collaborated with Willie Nelson (“I Gotta Get Drunk”), Merle Haggard (“C.C. Waterback”) and Patty Loveless (“You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”). His voice adds magic to any song.
Jones had the uncanny ability to transition from fun loving honky tonk romps (“One Woman Man,” “Love Bug”) to rip-your-heart-out jukebox weepers (“Tender Years,” “I’ll Share My World With You”) without missing a beat. Here are the 10 best George Jones songs.
This irresistible ode to classic cars and young love was recorded for Jones’ 1985 album Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes. The song recounts the Possum’s run-in with an older man at a convenience store who seems to be taken with his corvette. After more discussion, he discovers the old man is actually talking about the brunette woman in the passenger seat. Jones’ baritone delivery of “hotter than a two dollar pistol” is just another reminder of why he’s the greatest of all time. The song was a staple of the Possum’s live shows.
Released in 1992 when Jones was 61, “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” was Jones’ unequivocal statement that he wasn’t done honky tonking just yet. Jones sings about old-age stereotypes, rejecting Geritol and Medicaid and reminding the youngsters that you “can’t put this possum in a cage.” The final chorus enlists several early 90s country singers, such as Patty Loveless, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson and Clint Black, who knew firsthand that ol’ No Show Jones was still as wild and rowdy as he ever was.
The relationship between George Jones and Tammy Wynette had its ups and downs but the two continued to record together long after their divorce. “Golden Ring,” an enduring country duet that traces the life of a wedding ring, was recorded months after the king and queen of country had split. And though George and Tammy both moved on (Wynette would go on to marry songwriter and record producer George Richey), “Golden Ring” remains one of the greatest country duets of all time.
“The Right Left Hand,” recorded for Jones’ 1986 album Wine Colored Roses, is believed to be Jones’ tribute to his fourth wife Nancy. The Possum maintained that Nancy had saved both his life and career, helping him through his addiction problems.
Recorded in 1965, “The Race is On” is rooted in the country tradition of mixing humor and heartbreak. The narrator relates his relationship strife to a horse race. Pride, heartaches and tears are in a race to the finish line, but in the end, “the winner loses all.”
READ MORE: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About George Jones
“If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” was recorded at the height of Jones’ personal struggles. The singer references his demons–heartbreak and excessive drinking–in the 1981 single. Similar to the song’s narrator, Jones was falling apart in the public eye. Many believed the song was about his divorce from Tammy Wynette years earlier. And the Possum made no effort to dissuade the rumors. He often changed the lyrics to “If drinkin’ don’t kill me, Tammy’s memory will” when he performed the song in public.
Jones had a very brief foray in rockabilly music in his early recording career. And although No Show was never too keen on discussing his short-lived rockabilly career, “White Lightning” proved that Jones still had it in him. Written by rockabilly artist J.P. Richardson (better known as “The Big Bopper”) this ditty about the strongest moonshine in the North Carolina hills is one of Jones’ most beloved hits.
If there were an award for saddest George Jones song, this one would definitely make the shortlist. It may have taken the top prize, if it weren’t for a little song that came out a few years later. Written by Norro Wilson, George Richey and Carmol Taylor, “The Grand Tour” follows a heartbroken man as he walks through his broken home, stopping in each room to reminisce about his lost love. The final lyrics remain some of the most heart-wrenching in country music history.
George Jones never hesitated to sing about the darker aspects of his famous life. “Choices,” written by Billy Yates and Mike Curtis, is a song about coming to grips with the decisions we’ve made in life and how they impact our loved ones. Following Jones’ 1999 drunk driving accident, the song took on a deeper meaning.
Jones was supposed to perform “Choices” at the 1999 CMA Awards. After learning that the CMA wanted him to perform a one-minute, abridged version of the song, Jones decided to stay home. Alan Jackson famously protested the CMA’s decision to not allow Jones to perform the song in its entirety when he cut his own performance of “Pop A Top” short to sing “Choices.” The act is one of country’s most memorable moments.
What can be said about “He Stopped Loving Her Today”? The song, written by Bobby Bradock and Curly Putnam, has been named the saddest country song of all time (as well as the greatest country song ever written). And we can’t really argue. The song is perfect.
According to producer Billy Sherrill, Jones hated the song at first, claiming that it too sad and would never sell. The single, released in 1980, revitalized the Possum’s stalled career and became one of his biggest hits. Jones won the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1981.
Honorable mentions: “I’ve Got Five Dollars and It’s Saturday Night,” “I Got Stripes” with Johnny Cash, “Bartender’s Blues,” “Hell Stays Open All Night Long.”