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Last updated: April 27. 2013 12:06AM - 493 Views

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 1996 file photo, George Jones thanks the crowd after winning Video of the Year for "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" during the CMA Awards show at the Grand Ole Opry House.  ones, the peerless, hard-living country singer who recorded dozens of hits about good times and regrets and peaked with the heartbreaking classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," has died. He was 81. Jones died Friday, April 26, 2013 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after being hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure, according to his publicist Kirt Webster. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Bill Welch)  NO SALES
FILE - In this Oct. 13, 1996 file photo, George Jones thanks the crowd after winning Video of the Year for "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" during the CMA Awards show at the Grand Ole Opry House. ones, the peerless, hard-living country singer who recorded dozens of hits about good times and regrets and peaked with the heartbreaking classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," has died. He was 81. Jones died Friday, April 26, 2013 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after being hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure, according to his publicist Kirt Webster. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Bill Welch) NO SALES
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When it comes to country music, George Jones was The Voice.


Other great singers have come and gone, but this fact remained inviolate until Jones died Friday at 81 in a Nashville hospital after a year of ill health.


“Today someone else has become the greatest living singer of traditional country music, but there will never be another George Jones,” said Bobby Braddock, the Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter who provided Jones with 29 songs over the decades. “No one in country music has influenced so many other artists.”


He did it with that voice. Rich and deep, strong enough to crack like a whip, but supple enough to bring tears. It was so powerful, it made Jones the first thoroughly modern country superstar, complete with the substance abuse problems and rich-and-famous celebrity lifestyle that included mansions, multiple divorces and — to hear one fellow performer tell it — fistfuls of cocaine.


“He just knows how to pull every drop of emotion out of it of the songs if it’s an emotional song or if it’s a fun song he knows how to make that work,” Alan Jackson said in a 2011 interview. “It’s rare. He was a big fan of Hank Williams Sr. like me. He tried to sing like Hank in the early days. I’ve heard early cuts. And the difference is Hank was a singer and he was a great writer, but he didn’t have that natural voice like George. Not many people do. That just sets him apart from everybody.”


That voice helped Jones achieve No. 1 songs in five separate decades, 1950s to 1990s. And its qualities were admired by more than just his fellow country artists but by Frank Sinatra, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and countless others. “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones,” Waylon Jennings once sang.


Word of his death spread Friday morning as his peers paid tribute.


Merle Haggard put it best, perhaps: “The world has lost the greatest country singer of all time. Amen.”


“The greatest voice to ever grace country music will never die,” Garth Brooks said. “Jones has a place in every heart that ever loved any kind of music.”


And Dolly Parton added: “My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world.”


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