Country music, at least classic country music, before the influx of pop stars and introduction of hip-hop styled drum loops used to appeal to a younger audience, meant something. The best songs tell entertaining stories that entertain while delving t into the minds of ordinary everyday people. One of the best of these stories, is He Stopped Loving Her Today, by George Jones.

The song was released in 1980 and hit number one. This surprised critics who had begun to write George Jones off as a musician past his best after he failed to find any chart success in 6 years. Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, it tells a tale of never giving up on someone the protagonist loved many years ago. It has since been covered by Johnny Cash and LeAnn Rhymes.

I first heard the song at university. A few friends and I decided to find the saddest song of all time and one of those that stuck with us was He Stopped Loving Her Today. Another on the list, Live Like You Were Dying, by Tim Mcgraw helped stoke the passion for an unfamiliar genre. Ironically, Jones disliked the song when it was first offered to him. He called it a “morbid son of a bitch.” However, he would later credit it with the revival of his failing career.

The Break Down

He said “I’ll love you till I die”, she told him “You’ll forget in time”
As the years went slowly by, she still preyed upon his mind

He kept her picture on his wall, went half-crazy now and then
He still loved her through it all, hoping she’d come back again

Kept some letters by his bed dated nineteen sixty-two
He had underlined in red every single “I love you”

 

In the opening couplets, the narrator sets the tone and instantly informs the listener of the stories purpose. It was a brief romance that the protagonist never moved on from. In the next few lines, the ways the protagonist holds onto an old love is shown. The reference to 1962 gives age to the timeless unrequited love, but when the lover suggested he’d forget in time, it shows that she may have indeed have believed it that he wasn’t capable of loving someone as much as he loved her.

 

I went to see him just today, oh but I didn’t see no tears
All dressed up to go away, first time I’d seen him smile in years

 

The narrator changes the perspective and speaks off his own experience in the story. It shows how deep the protagonist’s love was felt. The narrator suggests he’s all dressed up to head somewhere, which suggests it’s his own funeral, but it doesn’t explicitly state it and leaves it to the listener’s senses.

 

He stopped loving her today

They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

 

And then, he states the premise of the song; the characters death. And as suggested by the first line, he loved her from the very beginning. He’ll be in the ground soon, and the pain he felt from her absence will quickly be forgotten. However, the power in the line he stopped loving her today brings his life meaning. Instead of stating that he died, and telling us that everything is over, the lyrics flirt with the idea of deaths finality. Everything stopped the day he died, and there was no love left for him to give. Promise kept, but nothing can overcome the destiny we’re all hurling towards.

 

You know, she came to see him one last time
Aww, ‘n’ we all wondered if she would
And it kept runnin’ through my mind

“this time he’s over her for good”

 

The antagonist, an innocent woman from 1962, shows up to the funeral. Not much information is given about their relationship, but everyone speculates over her presence and suggests that the deceased lover gave her every reason to leave. Maybe no one would blame her for not attending his funeral. However, the narrator brings the couplet back to the protagonist and suggesting he’s free from her hold.

 

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

 

The song has a celebratory feel to it. Of course, it’s sad and tragic, but at the same time, it manages to bring an uplifting to feel to the macabre lyrics. Its message tells us to live while we can because nothing can conquer death. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows how it feels to claw to all hope of a rom-com style reunion, but hearts break at the realisation that it’ll never happen. However, the protagonist’s death is the moment this man finally moved on. Soon, they’ll carry him away, and all his pain and heartbreak will fade. He stopped loving her today.

 

Advertisements

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.