The singer George Jones died two years ago. His widow Nancy Jones was recently interviewed, and she revealed something of what his final moments were like. He had been hospitalized for five days suffering with fever, blood pressure and respiratory problems. Nancy reports that over the course of those five days his eyes were closed, and he didn’t speak. Then, while she was talking with one of the doctors at the foot of his bed, he suddenly opened his eyes and said, “Well, hello there, I’ve been looking for you. My name’s George Jones.” And then, only moments later, he passed away.
Nancy is convinced that George was talking to The Man Upstairs. “I know in my heart he was talking to God and he has gone to heaven,” she said.
I don’t doubt for a moment that George Jones went to heaven (because if he went to the other place then the Devil really does have all the good music, and I don’t buy that) but I allow myself to idly wonder if it was specifically God he was talking to in that moment. Some others who’ve had similar very-near-death experiences and come back instead recall seeing a being or beings (familiar or not) who seem to be there to lead them onwards to that next level. No doubt an appointment with God is on the agenda, but, like Paul Simon said, you have to “wait in the line.” And I think on meeting God you’d understand that you don’t have to tell Him your name. So I do think George Jones was seeing an emissary, maybe something like a booking agent for the next world.
Leonard Cohen is about to release an album of recordings from his most recent concert tours: not so much the hits as the rarities. On it will be his performance of “Choices,” a song that George Jones made his own and made famous. George Jones and Leonard Cohen were both on concert tours in 2013. George Jones was then 81; Cohen was a fresh-faced 78 going on 79. George Jones didn’t quite make it through his tour, falling ill and then passing away on April 26th. His had been intended as a farewell tour, and indeed it was titled “The Grand Tour,” after his classic record of the same name. And Leonard Cohen’s new album is titled Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour.
I do think that Leonard has been fancying himself quite a bit as a country singer in his latter days, using more and more of those flavors in his songs and performances, and I for one love it. But he would well know that he can’t touch George Jones, and he introduced the song when he sang it live in Germany some weeks after George Jones’ death by saying: “This is in homage to that very great artist.” And indeed it is a very sweet homage. (I think that the official recording—embedded below—is from a soundcheck rather than a concert.)
It is awfully nice to hear the younger folk keeping George Jones’ music alive. But you can’t beat the possum himself, and his version is embedded below, from his rather superb 1999 album, The Cold Hard Truth.
I guess I’m payin’ for the things that I have done
If I could go back, oh, Lord knows I’d run
But I’m still losin’ this game of life I play
Living and dying with the choices I’ve made
The funeral of country singer extraordinaire George Jones will be this coming Thursday at 10 a.m.; it will take place at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House (where else?) and the public will be permitted to attend.
My guess is that it will prompt a kind of outpouring rarely seen. There will an awful lot of ordinary people who will want to pay their respects to George Jones, people who felt like they knew him, and felt like they were somehow blessed and helped through some of the darker times in life by his way with a song.
It would be nice to think that George might be watching from a window up above.
George Jones is reported to have died, at the age of 81, after being hospitalized in Nashville with a high fever and irregular blood pressure.
He had a life that was full—at times far too full, which makes it such a blessing that he lasted this long—yet there’s something unusually sad about the news of his loss for me today, and I’m sure for countless others. We’re commonly told of how so many people are irreplaceable, and no doubt everyone is irreplaceable, but George Jones must then count as being exceptionally irreplaceable. I wasn’t much of a fan of his as a young lad, but grew to deeply love his music in recent years. His ability to wring so many spoonfuls of nuance out of the singing of a single syllable … the peerless way in which he expressed vulnerability, pain, and hopeless love. And, then, the way at other times he could be a supreme hoot. Continue reading George Jones, Now Resting in Peace→