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George Jones dies: Country music legend sang about life he lived

George Jones dies: The Texas native recorded over 150 albums. By the time George Jones died Friday, his career had spanned eight decades.

By Chris Talbott & Hillel ItalieAssociated Press / April 26, 2013

In this 2006 file photo, country music legend George Jones waves to the crowd during his 75th birthday celebration at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn. From left are Joe Diffie; Jones' wife, Nancy; Craig Morgan; Jones; Tanya Tucker; and Joe Nichols.

Mark Humphrey/AP/File

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Nashville

George Jones, the peerless, hard-living country singer who recorded dozens of hits about good times and regrets and peaked with the heartbreaking classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," has died.

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Jones died Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, according to his publicist Kirt Webster. He had been recently hospitalized, forcing him to postpone two shows.

With one of the most golden voices of any genre, a clenched, precise, profoundly expressive baritone, Jones had No. 1 songs in five separate decades, 1950s to 1990s. He was idolized not just by fellow country artists, but by Frank Sinatra, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and countless others. "If we all could sound like we wanted to, we'd all sound like George Jones," Waylon Jennings once sang.

Word of his death spread Friday morning as his peers paid tribute.

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

Ronnie Dunn added: "The greatest country blues singer to ever live."

In Jones' case, that's not hyperbole. In a career that lasted more than 50 years, "Possum" evolved from young honky-tonker to elder statesman as he recorded more than 150 albums and became the champion and symbol of traditional country music, a well-lined link to his hero, Hank Williams.

Jones survived long battles with alcoholism and drug addiction, brawls, accidents and close encounters with death, including bypass surgery and a tour bus crash that he only avoided by deciding at the last moment to take a plane.

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.

In song, he was rowdy and regretful, tender and tragic. His hits included the sentimental "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," the foot-tapping "The Race is On," the foot-stomping "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair," the melancholy "She Thinks I Still Care," the rockin' "White Lightning," and the barfly lament "Still Doing Time." Jones also recorded several duets with Tammy Wynette, his wife for six years, including "Golden Ring," ''Near You," ''Southern California" and "We're Gonna Hold On." He also sang with such peers as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard and with Costello and other rock performers.

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