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Feb. 6: It’s the saddest song, and the most mournful voice, and the most histrionic production and the cruelest punchline in the history of country music. But what a magnificent cry America had in 1980 when the first track of George Jones’ album I Am What I Am became the brilliant, infamous superstar’s first Number One single in six years.

Those aren’t my words; they were written in 2001 by Mix Magazine‘s Barbara Schultz, for an installment of its Classic Tracks series. It’s the story of the recording of “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” generally considered the greatest country song of all time. I’ve never seen it as THE greatest, but there’s no doubt that only a few others could put up a credible challenge.

The process of turning an 8-on-a-10-scale song into an 11-on-a-10-scale record began in the Quonset Hut studio 30 years ago today. Read Schultz’s great article to learn how the Hut was set up that day, which equipment was used, and how the great producer Billy Sherrill and his engineers approached their craft.

Whether or not it’s the best of all time, there’s never a bad time to hear “He Stopped Loving Her Today” one more time. So, give it a spin and have yourself a good cry.

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