"He Stopped Loving Her Today"
by, January 23rd, 2012 at 04:18 PM (4818 Views)
--"theboot.com" lists this old George Jones classic as the #1 "Saddest Country Song" of all times.
If you are not familiar with it, it's about a guy who lost his woman but could not stop loving her. On the day he died, he finally stopped loving her.
I'm a music lover. I was raised on jazz and folk and came to worship the Beatles. My love of Rock and Roll has lasted my lifetime. I admire classic compositions and show tunes and I even have room for some hiphop. If asked, I'd describe my music orientation as broad and sophisticated.
I came to Country Music late, around the time I left New York and moved into the Deep South. Half of the radio stations in Florida are country-oriented, so exposure to country was unavoidable. Over time, country songs-- even the schmaltzy backwoods ballads--have became part of my mental playlist.
Last October I was in Nashville, the spiritual home of Country. I was walking down Broadway, the town's main street, when it began to rain, so I ducked into a dive bar called Legends, located just a few steps from the famous Ryman Auditorium.
A singer sat in the front window, just he and his guitar, and he was putting out some pretty good covers of old country songs.
I ordered a beer and listened for awhile, killing time and waiting for the rain to pass. He began to sing "He Stopped Loving Her Today", and as I listened to the familiar lyrics, I was hit with a thunderbolt...
...I met my wife in 1973. We married, had a couple of kids and had a pretty good life together, but ultimately the union failed and we divorced in 1993. We remained friends, involved with our kids and our friends and we even had a year-long affair a few years after we divorced. I realized after our break that she was the love of my life, and I never have had a relationship as deep as ours was, ever again. She felt that as well, but we also realized that we could never be together again...
In June of '07, my son threw a surprise birthday party for me. He rented a beachside suite, invited a dozen people to the party, including my -ex, his Mom. As we were splashing in the surf, the phone rang.
That morning, Sue had taken her life. The party was over.
...I was sitting at the bar, sucking down a beer, waiting for a storm to pass and listening to George Jones' old classic when, suddenly and unexpectedly, my chest began to heave, my breath came in gasps and my heart literally broke. I had no control--I was flooded with memories of our lost love and I began to weep.
Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I rose from the stool, tipped the singer a ten and walked out and onto a rainy Broadway, tears streaming down my face. By the time I got to the car I was a wreck. I sat behind the wheel, enveloped in a chest- heaving catharsis and just let it roll, under seige by memories of what I had once had and lost, disturbed by the depth of my emotions. I had never felt so lost. THIS had NEVER happened to me before, and I could not stop it.
Eventually the moment passed. Later, I met up with my friends, we had a great night drinking beer and listening to club music. I never mentioned what had happened earlier, at the Legend's bar. I found a CD of George Jones's Greatest Hits, and when the song came on, so did the emotion. It has become a song I cannot listen to, a country song that told me more about myself than I even knew. I've never told anyone about this, not even my kids. The power contained in that piece of music looms enormous to me now.
When I sat down at my computer this afternoon, that damned song came on the radio, and I knew I had to write these words.
...I miss you, Baby, and I guess I always will.
Not until my dying day, the day I finally can stop loving you.