The Tennessean
Written by Beverly Keel

Music City has just capped off a week of remembrance George Jones, the greatest male singer in the history of country music, with an exciting, star-studded tribute show at the Bridgestone Arena, “Playin’ Possum! The Final NO SHOW.”

But that excitement was tempered by sadness a few days earlier at the unveiling of a monument at Jones’ graveside at Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Memorial Park. It was a painful reminder of what the world has lost.

Americans will never again be able to see him sing his iconic hits live, and Nashvillians will never again see him out with his warm and beautiful wife, Nancy.

On Jones’ gravesite, it says, “George Glenn Jones was and is ‘The King of Broken Hearts.’ ” But I think his reign is bigger than that. Just as Princess Diana was “The People’s Princess,” I believe Jones is “The People’s King,” because he knew what was in our hearts, minds and souls and expressed it in ways that we couldn’t.

These and other recent events were not farewell celebrations, but the beginning of the next chapter in his legacy. Now that he’s gone, it’s up to the rest of us to ensure that future generations know about this pillar of American culture.

Nancy Jones, the singer’s wife of 30 years, established the George Jones scholarship fund at Middle Tennessee State University, which marks our long-term commitment to preserving the legacy of the Country Music Hall of Famer.

We want to educate students, scholars and others nationwide about his life and music. Our goal is to create a course for recording industry students on the depth and impact of the body of Jones’ work, and provide an encouraging environment for scholars to research and publish their analyses and interpretation of his music to share with universities worldwide.

MTSU’s Center for Popular Music will seek to add to its collection of artifacts surrounding his career.

Just as people study Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, we want them to also understand the importance of Jones, Cash, Williams and Haggard. It’s time that country music finally be given the respect it is due in popular music and American studies canons.

These founding fathers of America’s great art form have touched immeasurable lives across socioeconomic, geographic and demographic boundaries. Jones’ music was universal and personal. His voice broke one heart at a time, and then somehow stitched each one back together, note by note.

We’ve taken Jones for granted for far too long. He was our friendly neighbor who joined his wife in opening his home to everyone at Christmas. We never imagined a world without George Jones.

So it’s up to all of us to work together so that such a world never exists. We must dedicate ourselves to sharing Jones’ music with future generations, so that college students 100 years from now will still know “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” regardless of what future technology allows them to hear the song. And we can’t do it alone.

I hope you will join our efforts to ensure that no one will ever stop loving the music of George Jones.