George Jones, who died today at 81, left behind an enormous body of work to sift through and enjoy. Here’s a smattering from his half-century-plus recording career to get you started. (You can also stream the full list at Spotify, after the jump.)
“White Lightning” (1959)
His first No. 1 song was an ode to bootleg booze—and fittingly, according to his 1996 autobiography, I Lived to Tell It All, it took him 80 takes to record vocals during a drunken day in the studio.
“Love Bug” (1965)
One of his more rockin’ hits captures the playful side of “the Possum” and features backup vocals by Jones protégé and bandmate Johnny Paycheck.
“The Door” (1974)
Another No. 1, on which Jones lists the most awful sounds he’s ever heard (“the sound of my dear old mama crying/And the sound of the train that took me off to war”)—but nothing hurts as bad as “that lonely sound, the closing of the door” when the girl he loves walks out of his life.
“These Days (I Barely Get By)” (1974)
One of the great low-down, everything-that-can-possibly-go-wrong-is-going-wrong songs.
“Golden Ring” (1976)
This No. 1 duet with Tammy Wynette (whom he divorced 14 months before the song’s release) tracks a wedding ring from a Chicago pawnshop to its new home with a happy young couple and eventually, when their marriage falls apart, its journey back to the pawnshop.
“I Ain’t Got No Business Doin’ Business Today” (1978)
In which Jones extols the virtues of playing hooky to make whoopee.
“Bartender’s Blues” (1978)
Jones portrays a character struggling with life on the other side of the bar, for a change in a song written by James Taylor, who provides beautifully blended backup vocals on Jones’ version.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980)
Many surveys have called it the greatest country song of all time; others have called it the saddest. It won him the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980. Spoiler alert: Basically, the guy only stops loving her because he dies.
“If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” (1981)
In excruciatingly vivid detail, Jones documents a man’s struggles with the bottle in the face of a devastating romantic loss.
“No Show Jones” (1982)
On this self-referential standout from A Taste of Yesterday’s Wine his duets album with Merle Haggard, Jones pokes fun at his reputation for canceling performances (hence the famous nickname of the title) and jokes with Merle about other C&W legends of the day.
“We Sure Make Good Love” (1984)
Loretta Lynn joins George on a flirty, funny duet about an inept couple who excel at one particular form of cardio.
“Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” (1985)
Once again Jones references his country colleagues—only this time he’s paying serious tribute.
“High-Tech Redneck” (1993)
Jones discusses staying current with technology and true to himself at the same time (he’s “Mayberry meets Star Trek”) on this live-show highlight.
At 67, the singer gets reflective, looking back on a long history of troubled relationships and battles with addiction.
“Funny How Time Slips Away” (2005)
On his album Hits I Missed…and One I Didn’t, Jones takes a pass at one of country music’s most covered tunes, adding an air of golden-years melancholy to an already wistful love song.
—by Dan Morrissey
More on EW.com:
Legendary country star George Jones is dead at 81
Goodbye, Possum: The Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall remembers George Jones
Missing George Jones — and other late icons we never got to see live