The Story Behind George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

The Story Behind George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
Photo: George Jones/ The Courier

On April 14, 1980, George Jones released “He Stopped Loving Her Today” as the lead single off his album I Am What I Am. This poignant ballad became his first solo number-one single in six years and has since been regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, country songs ever.

Ron Galella/ Getty Images

But what if we told you that it almost wasn’t recorded? Legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock, who co-wrote the song with Curly Putnam, revealed some behind-the-scenes secrets in a sit-down interview with WZTV Fox 17.

Because he was embarking on a songwriting career and didn’t want to forget anything, Braddock wrote down what happened at the end of every day, giving him hundreds of journals to look back on throughout his life.

“I had the concept,” Braddock said. “A love that was so strong that only death could terminate it.”

What started as a hangout consisting of funeral jokes turned into the beginning of writing “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which Braddock rated a 7/10 at the time. The two writers shelved the song and revisited it several months later when they finished it – or so they thought.

>>READ ALSO: George Jones Honors Fallen Soldiers in “50,000 Names Carved in the Wall”

In 1978, producer Billy Sherrill introduced the song to Jones, who hated it when he first heard it. Despite his initial distaste, Jones and Sherrill returned to it two years later. Braddock recalled, “They said, ‘We want to cut that song, but it needs an extra verse of the wife or girlfriend coming back to the funeral.’”

For a while, Braddock and the publishing company Jones was working with went back and forth before settling on a version both parties liked, but the word “liked” should be used lightly.

In a biography about the legendary singer by Bob Allen, Sherrill is quoted saying, “[Jones] thought it was too long, too sad, too depressing and that nobody would ever play it…He hated the melody and wouldn’t learn it.”

Legend also has it that Jones often confused the melody for Kris Kristofferson’s song “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” After many months of recording, the song was finally finished, and when Braddock heard it, he was floored.

>>READ ALSO: The Story Behind Kris Kristofferson’s Biggest Hit, “Why Me Lord”

“You hear this orchestra. Violins, cellos, and the violas are swelling this ascending thing, and it sounds like the guy’s soul is ascending to Heaven,” Braddock told WZTV.

Even though Braddock loved it, The Possum still wasn’t so sure. The last thing Jones said before releasing the song was, “Nobody’ll buy that morbid son of a bitch.”

Boy, was he wrong! “He Stopped Loving Her Today” shot straight to number one, where it stayed for 18 weeks. It single-handedly revived his career and became the greatest country song of all time.

With Sherrill pushing Jones to record the song, we likely would have never heard it. This song, filled with heart-wrenching emotion and a beautifully tragic story, continues to touch the hearts of country music fans around the world. It’s a testament to the power of perseverance and the timeless nature of truly great music.

Look at WZTV Fox 17’s interview with songwriter Bobby Braddock below to gain more insight into the creation of this legendary song.

>>READ ALSO: Relive the last performance of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones

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