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Digital Subscriptions > Country Music > Apr/May 2019: Classic Country! > THE GREATEST

THE GREATEST

“If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones” sang Waylon Jennings. The man known as The Possum was the hero of other country heroes and he didn’t just sing country songs: he lived them…

When boxing fans refer to Muhammad Ali as ‘The Greatest’, it’s not just a testament to his artistry, charisma and his performances. It’s a recognition of his resilience and his achievements against the odds. And if he has a country music equivalent, it would surely be George Jones. Just as Ali got up off the seat of his pants to regain the world heavyweight title twice, George Jones repeatedly bounced back from adversity to overcome recurrent personal demons and professional challenges, en route to making some of country’s most timeless hits.

He survived a childhood marred by a drunken, abusive father to emulate his heroes Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell and reach the Top Five of the country charts as early as 1955, but after a few experiments with a more rockabilly sound that he later professed great embarrassment about, and several more hits aping a Hank-style honky-tonk sound, he found his voice – that voice – which would come to define him and carry so many of his songs so deeply into people’s hearts. Not long after White Lightning gave Jones his first country No.1 in 1959, he began to develop the sound he would become known for on songs such as 1960’s The Window Up Above, the tale of a man spying on his wife’s infidelity. There was something about his versatile, supremely expressive baritone voice that seemed to create so much emotional resonance.

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