Vince Gill has performed his song “Go Rest High On That Mountain” hundreds of times and for many solemn occasions. But at the funeral of George Jones, he couldn’t keep it together.
Playing on the Grand Ole Opry stage during the nearly three-hour public service, Gill’s steady high tenor cracked as duet partner Patty Loveless picked up the lead.
“Brother George taught us all how to sing with a broken heart, better than anyone who ever lived,” Gill told the crowd.
It was the first of several standing ovations.
Jones was remembered as a traditionalist by country music renegade Charlie Daniels, who said Jones shunned trends, fads and “sounding like the next big thing coming off Music Row.”
“He just kept being George Jones,” Daniels said. “And in this modern day of follow-the-leader, cookie-cutter, whatever-radio-will-play sameness, George Jones stood head and shoulders.”
Well-worn stories were shared about the singer known for much of his life for his hard drinking. CBS newsman Bob Shieffer told the tale of Jones driving a lawnmower to a bar after his car keys were taken away.
Former First Lady Laura Bush gave new insight into her husband’s exercise habits.
“At the White House, many times as I walked upstairs by the gym, I heard ‘White Lightning’ as George W worked out on the treadmill listening to George J,” she said.
Speakers found a variety of ways to say George Jones is synonymous with country music.
Opry general manager Pete Fisher said if an alien landed on earth and asked what country music was, “you’d play them George Jones.”
“If Norman Rockwell was a singer, he would have sounded just like George Jones,” said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
The funeral came nearly a week after Jones died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His health had been failing, though remarkably he performed shows this year.
After a life of hard living, Brad Paisley said Jones should give hope to those who may hit rock bottom.
“He is an inspiration to all of us if that man can live to 81 years old.”