Quite the transition today, as we venture back into the world of country music. On the list of all-time country legends, no list is complete without hard-drinking and hard-living George Jones, whose life was played out as one country song after another. This comeback album for Jones, “I Am What I Am”, rated #9 on tasteofcountry.com’s Top 10 Greatest Country albums of all time, is full of those moments, singing of heartbreak, betrayal, and struggles with the bottle.
The album opens with his biggest hit from the album, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, which put him back on top of the country charts for 18 weeks after going 6 years without a notable hit. Much of the rest of the collection is in the same vein. “I’ve Aged Twenty Years in Five”, “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)”, “I’m the One She Missed Him With Today”, “Bone Dry”, and perhaps my favorite, “His Lovin’ Her is Getting’ In My Way” all reflect the lifestyle George Jones embodied. As if to acknowledge what a burden could be, he recorded his version of “Good Hearted Woman”, originally written by Waylon and Willie and a successful release for each of these legends. The music of George Jones is classic country, and very soothing for me. My parents didn’t actively listen to much country music, but I always associate this music with their friends, family and peers from that generation, and it always makes me smile.
In a story mostly filled with redemption, George Jones overcame the demons of addiction that took the lives of many of his peers. As he aged into the 1980s and 1990s, he found more stability and health. Nothing about this recovery was perfect, unblemished, or easy, but he ultimately stands as proof that no matter how bad it may be, you can still make healthier choices and find some balance and enjoyment in a life without destructive excess.