The greatest--and most influential--of all country singers and something more: one of the most extraordinary vocalists in the history of popular music.

Nowhere will George Jones be mourned as soberly, effusively and proudly as in Nashville, and this is as it should be. The Texas-born singer, who died at 81 in Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center on April 26, was more widely admired in country music than anyone this side of Hank Williams himself, and he was single-minded in his devotion to its idiom and audience. He complained like all the old-timers about the muscle-bound boom-boom of modern country radio, and in 1999 boycotted a Country Music Assn.

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