Thursday, February 17, 2011

He Hasn't Stopped Loving Her Today...Yet

CATEGORY:  50 Songs to Hear

SONG:  You Haven't Heard
ARTIST:  Stonewall Jackson
SONGWRITER:  Stonewall Jackson
ALBUM:  I Love a Song
YEAR/LABEL:  1963; Columbia

We're always happy when someone says they like one of our songs, but it's especially gratifying when it's a song I wrote.
(Stonewall Jackson, discussing "You Haven't Heard," October 25, 1992)

It happens all the time in Hollywood movies:  a singer with a dream waltzes into Nashville, gets signed, and is #1 almost immediately.  (Then they turn to drugs, booze, and/or violence and end up in the slammer, the hospital, or the morgue.)  In reality, people spend years, if not decades, making music before that "big break" comes along.

Then there's Stonewall Jackson.  Stonewall (that is his name!) was heard by Nashville executive Wesley Rose and brought to Nashville.  The buzz was so great about this young Navy veteran from North Carolina that he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry without having a record deal.  Once he did get that deal (with Columbia) he quickly validated the hype:  his first single, a cover of the George Jones-penned "Life to Go," made the top five.  His debut album was titled The Dynamic Stonewall Jackson, and the title was no exaggeration.  The next hit from the album was the John D. Loudermilk/Marijohn Wilkin composition "Waterloo," a song that became a massive country and pop hit and made Stonewall Jackson a superstar almost overnight.

Jackson's music leaned toward the traditional "honky tonk" sound popularized in the 50s at a time when the "Nashville sound" of Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold made the Billboard pop chart look like a carbon copy of the country top ten.  In 1963 his album I Love a Song was released and gave him one of his biggest hits, the tragic "B.J. the D.J."  The highlight of the album, however, is a song that Jackson penned himself:  "You Haven't Heard."

Lost loves and "I'll love you till I die, honest" songs are nothing new in country music.  In fact, George Jones had addressed the issue long before "He Stopped Loving Her Today" with a song called "When the Grass Grows Over Me" ("I'll be over you when you're standing over me, and as you look down at the cold cold ground I'm sleeping in, don't expect to hear me say that I still love you then").  "You Haven't Heard" follows along a similar thought.  "You thought that I'd forgotten you, oh, how could I forget?" Jackson sings, then adds, "You haven't heard about me dying, have you yet?" to prove that his love is eternal.  There's no obituary "in the evening Gazette" and no mention that he "jumped in some river."  He confirms it with the line, "I'll love you even if I live forever."  It's a pure country music gem.

Jackson has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since arriving in Nashville in 1957, but in the late 2000s he sued the Opry for age discrimination, alleging that he and many other Opry performers who were over the age of 70 were being kept from appearing on the show regularly. The lawsuit has been settled.

Not only is Stonewall Jackson's name on the list of all-time great country singers, as "You Haven't Heard" proves he is also a very underrated songwriter.  Here's hoping that his name soon appears on the list of Hall of Fame inductees.


The entire I Love a Song album -- great covers ("No One Will Ever Know"), one of Stonewall's biggest hits ("B.J. the D.J."), and so many others make it one of Jackson's best albums...or anyone else's in the 1960s.

"Leona" (from The Sadness in a Song) -- country music, for better or worse, gets stereotyped because of all the "I love you but I'm going to kill you" murder ballads (see:  "Knoxville Girl").  Well, if the music is going to get the stereotype, it might as well come because of great songs such as this one.

"Smoke Along the Track" (from The Dynamic Stonewall Jackson) -- most people now are familiar with the covers of this song by either Dwight Yoakam (not bad) and Emmylou Harris (not good).  Stonewall Jackson had the first hit with it, and the aforementioned covers pale in comparison.


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