George Jones, one of a kind

“Just because I asked a friend about her

“Just because I spoke her name somewhere

“Just because I rang her number by mistake today

“She thinks I still care”

– From “She Thinks I Still Care,” sung by George Jones

If it is true that everyone has a purpose in life even if it is just to be a bad example for others, then country singer George Jones had a knack for teaching those lessons with outrageous antics and heartbreaking songs.

Of course, Jones was much more than a bad example – his life was the embodiment of a country song. He lived and loved hard and his rich baritone delivered lyrics in a way that could make grown men cry.

As tributes poured in last week after Jones died, we remembered again listening to sad songs like “She Thinks I Still Care” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” There was the obvious love in his voice when he recorded the duet “Near You” with his ex-wife Tammy Wynette.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, he was known as “No Show Jones” – he’d go on a bender and miss concerts. For much of this time, he was married to Wynette and she finally had enough and divorced him.

Jones’ largest hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” told the story of a man who finally got over a lost love by dying. Many of his fans, of course, thought the song referred to his feelings for Wynette. It turned out Jones didn’t even like the song when it was first presented to him – but his tremendous performance made it 1980s country song of the year.

The singer’s biggest problem was that for most of his adult life he fought a losing battle with alcoholism. He credited his fourth – and last – wife, Nancy, with saving his life by keeping him sober the last 20 years.

Fellow performers praised Jones at his funeral Thursday as the greatest country singer ever. We’re not sure about that, but his voice certainly touched a lot of us.

And the battle he waged, and finally won, with the bottle more than made up for all the bad examples he set in his younger days.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.