Legendary George Jones Dies at 81

By William Georgiades 04/26/13

The famously hard living country music superstar was sober for the last 14 years of his life.

"If I could give it up, anybody could." - George
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Country music legend George Jones has died at aged 81. Despite being almost as well known for his alcoholism as his music, the famously "hard living" Jones had 14 years of sobriety under his belt when he died. The singer of such classics as "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Grand Tour" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" once earned the nickname "No-Show Jones" after he missed many of his own concerts due to drinking and cocaine use. In his 1996 memoir, I Lived To Tell it All, Jones told of the time his second wife, Shirley Corley, hid the keys to all their cars so that couldn't drive the eight miles to the nearest liquor store. So he drove the lawnmower to town instead. At his most intoxicated, he was known to sometimes perform in the voice of a duck named "Deedoodle." But despite his reputation for hard living, the singer dominated the country music scene, winning two Grammys and landing a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame, becoming an American music icon. 

Jones finally gave up drinking in 1999, after he almost died in a car accident and was on a ventilator for 11 days. "The wreck put the fear of God in me," Jones told The Seattle Times in 2006. "When I opened my eyes and came out of the coma, I started wanting to hear gospel music...I right then made up my mind that enough was enough." He also kicked smoking after a 60-year smoking habit, saying, "If I could give it up, anybody could." Jones remained clean of drugs and alcohol until his death, but not without regret. "We only know it one way," he said, "We don't know what would have happened if I hadn't drank at all. I wish I hadn't. I can tell you that much. If I had my preferences today, I would have never had a bottle touch my lips."

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William Georgiades is a former editor at EsquireBlack Book, the New York Post and the Grapevine and has written for several publications including New York MagazineVanity Fair, the London Times and GQ. He has been the features editor at The Fix since 2013. You can find him on Linkedin.