George Jones, country superstar, dead at 81


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

Jones' publicist Kirt Webster says the singer died on Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., after being hospitalized April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.

Jones was known for his clenched and precise baritone. He had No. 1 songs in four separate decades, 1950s to 1990s, and was idolized not just by fellow country singers, but by Frank Sinatra, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and countless others.

"My heart is absolutely broken. George Jones was my all time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world. My heart goes out to Nancy and all his family and friends," said country singer Dolly Parton.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Jones recorded more than 150 albums and became the symbol of traditional country music. His voice was rich and deep, yet supple enough to bring tears.

"He had a voice that was the truth, raw and unfiltered. You can't get any realer, any more tortured or any more alive," said singer Kenny Chesney. "No one can do what George Jones does, and that's why 50 years later, he still stands out as one of the greatest singers in any genre of all time."

His career came complete with substance abuse problems and rich-and-famous celebrity lifestyle that included mansions, drugs and multiple divorces, including one to country singer Tammy Wynette, his third wife. His problems were just as legendary as his songs.

His failure to appear for concerts left him with the nickname "No Show Jones," and he later recorded a song by that name and often opened his shows by singing it. His wild life was revealed in song and in his handsome, troubled face, with its dark, deep-set eyes and dimpled chin.

"I sing top songs that fit the hardworking, everyday loving person. That's what country music is about," Jones said in a 1991 AP interview. "My fans and real true country music fans know I'm not a phony. I just sing it the way it is and put feeling in it if I can and try to live the song."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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