NASHVILLE, Tenn —
But his signature song was "He Stopped Loving Her Today," a weeper among weepers about a man who carries his love for a woman to his grave. The 1980 ballad, which Jones was sure would never be a hit, often appears on surveys as the most popular country song of all time.
Jones won Grammy awards in 1981 for "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and in 1999 for "Choices." He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 2008 was among the artists honored in Washington at the Kennedy Center.
Jones continued to make appearances and put out records, though his hit records declined.
"I don't want to completely quit because I don't know what to do with myself," he said in 2005. "I'll be out there as long as the people want me to be out there."
Jones was a purist who lamented the transformation of country music from the family feeling of the 1950s to the hit factory of the early 21st century. He was so caught up in country, old country, that when a record company executive suggested he record with James Taylor, Jones insisted he had never heard of the million selling singer-songwriter. He was equally unimpressed when told that Neil Young had come to visit backstage and declined to see him, saying he didn't know who he was. He did listen to the Rolling Stones, only because of the guitar playing of Keith Richards, a country fan who would eventually record with Jones.
Asked about what he thought about Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and other young stars, Jones said they were good but they weren't making traditional country music.
"What they need to do really, I think, is find their own title," he said.