George Jones: “Things Have Gone to Pieces” (In Memoriam)
I’m not sure how such an important passing completely escaped my attention, but it turns out George Jones passed away on April 26, at the age of 81. Given how much of his life passed in a blur of alcohol and drug addiction, it’s amazing that he made it that far. Nonetheless, he leaves behind an unsurpassed legacy as possibly the greatest of all country singers, and certainly one of the most influential. He had scads of hits on the country charts but rarely made much of a dent on the pop charts — he was genuine country, through and through.
Jones perfected the down-and-out broken-hearted loser that became so closely associated with country music with the release of “Things Have Gone to Pieces” in 1965, first appearing in album form (as far as I can tell) on his album, New Country Hits. “Pieces” was written by Leon Payne, but Jones’ recording was its first hit version (supposedly Johnny Cash did an earlier recording, but I can’t locate a version of it, so I’m not sure about that). While pop fans of the time were getting carried away with Beatlemania, George might as well have been inhabiting a different planet altogether, so little did country music pay attention to anything related to the British Invasion. “Things Have Gone to Pieces” out-heartbreaks pretty much everything else out there at the time, with lyrics like these:
Oh, the faucet started drippin’ in the kitchen,
And last night your picture fell down from the wall.
Today the boss said: “Sorry, I can’t use you any more.”
And tonight the light bulb went out in the hall.
Things have gone to pieces since you left me.
Nothing turns out half right now, it seems.
There ain’t nothing in my pocket, but three nickels and a dime,
But I’m holding to the pieces of my dream.
Jones’ plaintive, ideal country voice is the perfect vehicle for such sad-sack sentiments — you can’t help but feel his pain, rather than chuckling at the absurdity of it all, as might have been the case with a lesser singer. For that, George Jones and his music will live on far longer than memories of his difficult personal life.