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George Jones, legendary country singer, dies at 81

Country music legend George Jones has died in Nashville, Tenn., his representative confirmed in a statement on Friday. He was 81.

Jones had been in the midst of a year-long goodbye tour, deciding to withdraw from the road over health issues including an upper respiratory infection. He was hospitalized on April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure; he died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. A cause of death has not yet been reported.

Jones was a Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member and Kennedy Center Honoree, and the singer of such hits as "The Grand Tour," "She Thinks I Still Care" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

Born in Saratoga, Tex., on Sept. 12, 1931, Jones grew up in nearby Beaumont and played on the streets for tips while still a teenager, then joined the U.S. Marine Corps. When he left service he began recording for the Starday label in Houston, and his first top 10 song "Why Baby Why" hit the charts in 1955. He hit No. 1 with "White Lightning" four years later. He continued to record and hit the charts throughout the next few decades, shifting from a classic honky-tonk style into a more mainstream sound called "countrypolitan."

Jones' public persona was shaped by his addiction to alcohol and cocaine; he became known for missing many concerts, notes the Houston Chronicle. In 1983 police chased after an intoxicated Jones through Nashville, and the event was captured on TV (documentary video clip here).

He was married four times; his third wife was country singer Tammy Wynette, with whom he recorded several songs. They hit No. 1 three times, with "We're Gonna Hold On," "Golden Ring," and "Near You." Their daughter Georgette Jones is a performer, and appeared onstage with her father.

He is survived by Nancy Jones, his wife of 30 years, and four children.

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