Jones’ skepticism about the song’s commercial chances was overwhelmingly proven wrong.
The legend earned his eighth of 13 No. 1s with the song, which Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman co-wrote. Reportedly on the day that Jones recorded the single (Feb. 6, 1980) at Columbia Recording Studio in Nashville, he bet producer Billy Sherrill that it would not make it to No. 1.
The ballad was named song of the year at the Country Music Association Awards in both 1980 and 1981. It has been preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry since 2008.
Jones, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, died in Nashville on April 26, 2013, at age 81. He had performed his last concert in Knoxville, Tenn., that April 6.
At Jones’ funeral, speakers included former first lady Laura Bush, Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson, the latter of whom performed “Loving” to close Jones’ memorial at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House.
The single re-entered the May 11, 2013-dated Hot Country Songs chart at No. 21.
“When I first wrote ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ I thought it was an OK song, but not a great song,” Braddock recalled after Jones’ passing. “I felt [then], and still do, that both Curly Putman and I had written better songs. George just elevated it somewhere up there in the stratosphere, and Billy Sherrill’s production had a lot to do with it, too. When Billy played it for us, I knew it was something really special. I’d never heard anyone sing anything that good.”