George Jones' funeral at the Grand Ole Opry House was the stuff of country music royalty. A three-hour Nashville affair, it included performances by Montgomery Gentry, Alan Jackson, Kid Rock and Travis Tritt, who performed Krist Kristofferson's "Why Me Lord." But no performance was more touching than Patty Loveless and Vince Gill's performance of "Go Rest High On That Mountain."
The tribute began with several stories about the Possum from Gill. He recounted how Jones mistakenly assumed that Gill loved ravioli, resulting in several cases being brought along on tour. Loveless also shared her memories of Jones before they launched into the song.
The first chorus brought the audience to its feet - you can see Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, teary-eyed, in the front row, alongside many country stars and Jones's family. But by the time Loveless and Gill got to the second chorus, Gill too was crying, unable to finish his phrases. Loveless took over with her strong voice until Gill started his solo.
It's a heart-wrenching emotional performance from start to finish - few demonstrate better why Jones was one of the most influential country singers of the 20th century.
The tears are actually audible in Gill's voice, but they were always hovering in Jones' singing, making songs like "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "A Good Year For The Roses" some of the most sorrowful in country history.
Gill originally released "Go Rest High on That Mountain" in 1995. The sixth single from Gill's album When Love Finds You, the country legend originally started writing the song after the death of Keith Whitley. ("You weren't afraid to face the devil/You were no stranger to the rain" is a nod to Whitley's 1988 song "I'm No Stranger to the Rain.") But it wasn't until the death of Gill's older brother in 1993 that the country star finished the song. The country classic, which features both Loveless and Ricky Skaggs, has become a source of comfort to those who've lost loved ones and is as prevalent at funerals as "Amazing Grace."
This post was originally published in January of 2016.