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Lebanon songwriter gets hit in Library of Congress

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

It's been called the greatest country single of all time, sung by the genre's greatest vocalist.

But while it was an enormous hit, becoming George Jones' biggest record and signature song, was written by a man who calls Lebanon his home.

"He Stopped Loving Her Today," written by Bobby Braddock and Lebanon’s own Curly Putman, is to be featured in the Library of Congress' historical archives. Since 2002, the Library of Congress has named a limited number of recordings each year to the National Recording Registry for preservation.

The 1980 hit has been chosen the No. 1 country song of all time by several surveys. It was the Country Music Association's single of the year in 1980.

The song was about a man who carried a flame for a woman who had left him behind, vowing, "I'll love you 'til I die." Told from the point of view of the man's friend, the various ways he holds on to her memory are documented.

Just before the chorus, it seems like the lovesick fool has finally turned it around, as his friend recounts, "I went to see him just today. Oh, but I didn't see no tears. All dressed up to go away. First time I'd seen him smile in years." Then the chorus brings the kicker: the man kept his word, and loved her until the day that he died. "Soon they'll carry him away. He stopped loving her today."

George Jones has said that he initially thought "He Stopped Loving Her Today" was too sad to be very popular, but, at one of the lowest points of his career and personal life, he made it one of country music's defining and most enduring songs.

Putman was the son of a sawmill worker and was born in Princeton, Ala. He joined the Navy and spent four years on the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge. He married Bernice Soon in 1956 and tried several jobs in different places in the late ’50s and early ’60s, inspiring his later hit "My Elusive Dreams."

Putman wrote his first big hit, "Green Green Grass of Home," when working in Nashville plugging songs for Tree Records. His song "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is considered by many as the greatest country music song of all time.

Putman lives in Lebanon and donated money to The Songwriters' Institute at Cumberland University, which is now named after him. The Institute was created with the goal of educating Cumberland students and the public in the craft and business of songwriting.

Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at ben@wilsonpost.com. 

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