28: He Stopped Loving Her Today

28: He Stopped Loving Her Today

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

He Stopped Loving Her Today

Story by Curly Putman

Song written by Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock

Recorded by George Jones

Bobby Braddock and I had been writing for a while and we just couldn’t get anything cut. Some of the lyrics we were writing at the time were kind of silly and nothing seemed to be working for us.

Bobby initially brought the idea to me for “He Stopped Loving Her Today” back in 1979. We sat down in my office at Tree Publishing and we worked on it off and on. When it was mostly written we got hung up trying to figure out how to get the woman back to see him before he died. Finally, Bobby and I got back together and finished it.

Johnny Russell was the first one to record it, but I don’t think he even released it. Then we pitched it to producer Billy Sherrill and he played it for George Jones. George passed on it at first because he said it was too sad. That’s pretty bad when a song is too sad even for George Jones!

Later, Billy wanted us to change it a little for George. We would work on it and send it and Billy would say “Well, that’s not exactly what we wanted,” so we’d work on it some more. It is a little morbid, you know. Finally, we added the recitation at the end where she shows up at his funeral. Billy called us over to listen to what he had just produced with George and we were blown away. His voice was perfect for that song and nobody could do the recitation like him.

One of the interesting things about this song is that George released it as a single in 1980, but then it was still on the charts during the eligibility period for 1981, so it was nominated again in 1981. I never thought it could happen. I’ve only heard of that occurring once before. Freddie Hart won Song of the Year for “Easy Loving” in 1971 and 1972. So when “He Stopped Loving Her” was nominated twice, I thought, “There’s no way.” But darned if it didn’t win again the next year.

There are so few real story songs anymore in music, the kind that make you listen all the way to the end and have some sort of plot to them, or maybe a twist at the end. Pop music doesn’t really do much of that and a lot of modern country doesn’t really either. It’s rare to hear those kinds of story songs now, but listeners really love them.

It hit #1 for George in 1980 and revived his career at the time, but the number of awards that it’s won since then has been really amazing. Johnny Cash and others have covered it and I’ve heard Alan Jackson and Vince Gill say it’s their favorite song.

The Library of Congress just recently honored it as one of the top 25 country songs of all time or something like that. Country America magazine rated it as one of the top country songs of all time, and so did CMT, which is sometimes puzzling to me. We really didn’t think that much of it, Bobby and I, when we wrote it. We thought it was okay, but never dreamed it would get honored like that.

He Stopped Loving Her Today

He said “I’ll love you ’til I die”

She told him “You’ll forget in time”

As the years went slowly by

She still preyed upon his mind

He kept her picture on his wall

Went half crazy now and then

He still loved her through it all

Hoping she’d come back again

Kept some letters by his bed

Dated 1962

He had underlined in red

Every single “I love you”

I went to see him just today

Oh but I didn’t see no tears

All dressed up to go away

First time I’d seen him smile in years

CHORUS:

He stopped loving her today

They placed a wreath upon his door

And soon they’ll carry him away

He stopped loving her today

(Spoken)

You know she came to see him one last time

Oh and we all wondered if she would

And it kept running through my mind

This time he’s over her for good

CHORUS

To purchase the original demo of this song,
go to www.countrysongdemos.com

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