Dierks Bentley often puts pen to paper to craft songs that later make their way onto albums and country radios. Earlier this week, CNN asked him to put his writing craft to work in another way by penning an opinion piece on George Jones, who passed away April 26 at the age of 81. Dierks shared his thoughts on what George meant not only to him but the word of country music.
“If you aren’t able to fully hear and appreciateGeorge Jones’ voice, you really can’t fully appreciate country music,” Dierks wrote. “His voice opens up country music’s depth and power. You feel it or you don’t. It helps to have done some living and to have had your heart broken, like George did. And it really helps if you can hang around one of its greatest singers, which I was fortunate enough to do over the years.
At a show at the Ryman Auditorium years ago, Dierks recalled hearing bluegrass singer Peter Rowan advise that if you had a musical hero, do whatever you can to be near that person. For Dierks, that was hanging out with Terry Eldredge of The Grascals and The Sidemen, who truly introduced him to George Jones.
“Terry idolized George Jones,” Dierks said. “It was through him that I began to “hear” George, not just listen to him. There is a big difference between listening and hearing. I had listened to George growing up with my dad, a big country fan. I had listened to him in high school again, when I discovered Hank Williams Jr. and found out Hank also loved George.
“But it wasn’t until I was in Nashville and hanging out with Terry that I finally heard George Jones,” he continued. “I finally got it. The tone and the ache of his voice clicked. I heard how every word George sang was first filtered through a broken heart.”
Dierks went on to recall several personal memories from his time spent with George, including visiting backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, spending time with George and his wife Nancy at their home and dinners around Nashville. Dierks also performed for George at the Opry for his 75th birthday in 2006. Dierks urged music fans to pay attention to the artists from George’s generation.
“George is a member of country music’s greatest generation,” he wrote. “And there are only a handful of those men and women left. Go to their shows, talk to them if you can. Let them know how much you appreciate their music and if you are lucky enough, their friendship. Let them know the impact their singing or songwriting has had on your life. But don’t do it for their sake, do it for your own. So that when they are no longer with us, you might feel just a little less sad.”
Read Dierks’ full piece for CNN HERE.