He Stopped Loving Her Today
Writer(s): Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman (see lyrics here)
First Charted: April 12, 1980
Peak: 11 CW (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 0.52 US
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 18.1 video, 55.11 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
George Jones first hit the country charts in 1955 when he was 24 years old. His career seemingly peaked in the late sixties and early seventies, AC but then he found success with a series of duets with his then-wife Tammy Wynette. By the time 1980’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today” came around, he’d racked up more than one hundred entries on the country charts over a quarter century. It became what the BBC called “the most important song in country music history.” AC
The “classic is about a man who spends decades hoping his true love will return to him, but their reunion doesn’t happen until his funeral.” RS500 Songwriters Bobby Braddock (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E”) and Curly Putman (“Green, Green Grass of Home”) started writing together in 1977 and Braddock says Curly “swears that I brought him an idea about a man who so loved his wife that his love only stopped the day he died.” AC It started out as a joke about how natural someone looked at his funeral. TR
They weren’t impressed with the song and nearly forgot about it. Braddock finally recorded a demo more than 6 months after they wrote it. They didn’t get much response. Only Johnny Russell was interested. He cut it for two labels, but neither recording was released. AC When the song came to Billy Sherrill, he thought it would be a great single for George Jones. AC However, he wanted an additional verse about the woman in the relationship coming to the funeral. TR
He gave that his stamp of approval, but Jones wasn’t impressed, saying “I looked Billy square in they eye and said, ‘Nobobdy will buy that morbid son of a bitch.’” RS500 Sherrill convinced Jones to give it a shot, but the first take fell flat. Then Jones’ ex-wife, Tammy Wynette, came into the studio with her new husband. According to Braddock, “when he sang the song the second time, he never took his eyes off Tammy. It was like he was singing every word just for her.” AC
It was that quality which made Jones such a beloved performance. He “always appeared to feel such great pain that you could hear it when he sang.” AC Braddock said, “George Jones’ performance and Billy Sherrill’s production have a hell of a lot to do with that record becoming a standard.” TR The Academy of Country Music awarded it Single and Song of the Year. Jones said of it, “I was back on top. A four-decade career was salvaged by a three-minute song.” RS500
First posted 10/31/2021; last updated 8/27/2022.