George Jones Tribute: 5 Rock Covers of the Country Legend’s Classics
Country music lost one of its greats when iconic singer George Jones died Friday (April 26) at the age of 81. Jones was the real deal — not one of those shiny country superstars of the ‘Nashville’ generation — and he penned hundreds of classic country songs and recorded dozens of Top 10 hits. His influence cast a wide net well beyond the country music genre, and plenty of indie and alt-rock artists have recorded their own versions of songs he either wrote or popularized. Below, we look at five of the best.
‘A Good Year for the Roses’
An avid country music fanatic, Elvis Costello didn’t just cover George Jones tunes — he also played with the man, appearing on ‘Stranger in the House’ from Jones’ 1977 duet album ‘My Very Special Guests’ and later performing the tune with Jones during an HBO special dedicated to country great. Below is Costello’s cover of the 1970 Jones hit ‘A Good Year for the Roses’ as it appeared on ‘Almost Blue,’ Costello’s 1981 album with the Attractions.
‘Multiply the Heartaches’
Quirky Californian alt-rockers Cake scored one of their all-time biggest hits with ‘The Distance,’ off the 1996 album ‘Fashion Nugget,’ and the single’s B-sides showed off the eclectic nature of the band’s many influences. Most notable of those three backing tunes was a cover of the 1964 George Jones/Melba Montgomery collaboration ‘Multiply the Heartaches,’ which Cake approached in a rather straightforward, almost idolizing manner.
‘(I’m Gonna) Burn Your Playhouse Down’
George Jones didn’t write ‘Burn Your Playhouse Down,’ but he certainly owned it with the rendition of the Lester Blackwell-penned tune he recorded with Keith Richards. Scottish act the Proclaimers turned in an earnestly sweet and simple take on their 1987 album ‘This Is the Story,’ with vocal harmonies that make it almost sound like a traditional folk standard from their side of the pond.
‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink’
What’s country music without a few songs about drinking, right? It’s safe to say that downing booze is a major focus of ‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,’ and Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle sounds like he’s been doing just that on this short and sloppy live rendition, which features backing vocals from Bright Eyes collaborator Simon Joyner. No, Jones can’t take sole credit for this one — fellow country legend Merle Haggard originally wrote it — but his version arguably better captures the essence of staying and drinking, which is certainly no small feat.
‘If Drinking Don’t Kill Me’
George Jones’ impact on the indie rock subgenre known as alt-country is immeasurable, both directly and indirectly. For evidence of that influence, look no further than the Geraldine Fibbers and their cover of his ‘If Drinking Don’t Kill Me,’ which they often opened concerts with. The Fibbers were an obscure alt-country act best known for the subsequent endeavors of its members: Singer Carla Bozulich has worked with Mike Watt and Thurston Moore, while guitarist Nels Cline is a longtime member of Wilco. And while Wilco aren’t known to have specifically covered George Jones, his indirect imprint can be heard on their heartfelt roots-rock — and countless bands of their ilk — to this day.