Skip to main content

Jones filtered music through broken heart

By Dierks Bentley, Special to CNN
April 30, 2013 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Country music legend George Jones died Friday, April 26, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 81. Above: Jones poses for a portrait circa 1975. Country music legend George Jones died Friday, April 26, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 81. Above: Jones poses for a portrait circa 1975.
HIDE CAPTION
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
George Jones: King of broken hearts
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dierks Bentley: His friend and inspiration, country music legend George Jones has died
  • He says listening to Jones means "hearing" him; his words filtered through a broken heart
  • He says in Jones' catalog you can hear what great country does: reaches out, consoles
  • Bentley: Jones part of country's "greatest generation." Thank them while you can

Editor's note: Country singer/songwriter Dierks Bentley's sixth studio album, "Home," was released in 2012, debuting at No.1 on Billboard's country album chart. His five previous studio albums have sold more than 5 million copies, garnered 11 Grammy nominations and earned him an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry.

(CNN) -- "Damn it, I knew I needed to get in touch with George when I'd heard he was ill, that he had been admitted to the hospital for respiratory ailments. How did I let this happen?"

Those where my initial thoughts sitting on the tarmac at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport reading the texts and e-mails about George Jones's death Friday morning.

George was a friend, a country music legend, an influence to me and to countless other musicians.

 Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley

If you aren't able to fully hear and appreciate George Jones' voice, you really can't fully appreciate country music. His voice opens up country music's depth and power. You feel it or you don't. It helps to have done some living and to have had your heart broken, like George did. And it really helps if you can hang around one of its greatest singers, which I was fortunate enough to do over the years.

During a show at the Ryman Auditorium in the mid-'90s, I heard the great bluegrass singer Peter Rowan say that if you have a musical hero, you should do anything you can to be near that person. For him that meant driving Bill Monroe's tour bus. For me, it meant hanging around Terry Eldredge, my hero when I moved to Nashville, and the lead singer of a band called "The Sidemen," which played Tuesdays at the Station Inn.

Stars react to legend's death

Terry idolized George Jones. It was through him that i began to "hear" George, not just listen to him. There is a big difference between listening and hearing. I had listened to George growing up with my dad, a big country fan. I had listened to him in high school again, when I discovered Hank Williams Jr. and found out Hank also loved George. But it wasn't until I was in Nashville and hanging out with Terry that I finally heard George Jones. I finally got it. The tone and the ache of his voice clicked. I heard how every word George sang was first filtered through a broken heart.

1993: George Jones never 'phony'

We became friends eventually. From time spent together backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, visits at the home of George and his wife, Nancy, dinner at his favorite O'Charley's or Logan's Roadhouse, I cherished every moment in his presence, getting to hear firsthand accounts of stories I had read, the jokes and the laughter, the love between him and Nancy.

Having the opportunity to sing to George from the Opry stage for his 75th birthday in 2006 and to record in the studio together are unforgettable highlights of this crazy honky tonk dream.

People will always say that "He Stopped Loving Her Today" was George's best song and perhaps the greatest country song of all time. I certainly wouldn't disagree. But do yourself a favor and dig a little deeper. One of those nights when you are feeling down or lonesome, instead of going to the usual modern day distractions, grab some whiskey and listen to "A Picture of Me (Without You)," "The Cold Hard Truth," "A Good Year For The Roses," or my favorite, "The Door." Put your heart in George's hands and trust that he will take care of it.

That is what great country music (at least my favorite kind) and great country singers do; that is what country is all about: consoling the lonely, letting you know someone else has been there and has felt the way you do. It's about walking you through the hard times.

My dad was a member of this country's greatest generation. He grew up in The Depression and fought in WWII. There aren't many left. George is a member of country music's greatest generation. And there are only a handful of those men and women left. Go to their shows, talk to them if you can. Let them know how much you appreciate their music and if you are lucky enough, their friendship. Let them know the impact their singing or songwriting has had on your life. But don't do it for their sake, do it for your own.

So that when they are no longer with us, you might feel just a little less sad.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dierks Bentley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT