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Country Hall of Famer George Jones Dies In Nashville

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Country Hall of Famer George Jones died Friday. He was 81. Country Hall of Famer George Jones died Friday. He was 81.
Oklahoma singer/songwriter Blake Shelton pays respects on Twitter. Oklahoma singer/songwriter Blake Shelton pays respects on Twitter.

Like his nickname, The Possum's voice was like no other. His distinctive sound had depth and was haunting and sweet all the same.

Legendary country crooner George Jones succumbed to illness early Friday. After a music career spanning six decades, the icon passed peacefully at a Nashville hospital, reports say. He was 81.

Jones had his first No. 1 hit in 1959 with White Lightning and his name was "synonymous with emotionally unvarnished and unguarded honky-tonk music, a rallying cry for singers half his age," The Washington Post wrote. He was once singled out by Frank Sinatra as "the second best singer in America."

Watch George Jones Video: "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes"

In 1985, he recorded an album entitled "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," and the title track was released that year and peaked at No. 3. The song went on to lament the future of country music and its irreplaceable voices like Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline.

With news of The Possum's death, today's stars are adding his name to the list.

The country music family flooded Twitter with messages of remembrance for Jones. Oklahoma singer/songwriter Blake Shelton posted that once of his heroes was gone.

"Really REALLY bad news. We've lost a country music legend. And I've lost a hero and a friend. Goodbye George Jones."

LeAnn Rimes, one of the most powerful female voices of her time and thought by some to be a successor to those like Cline and Jones' third wife Tammy Wynette, paid tribute to Jones by referencing the most memorable song of his career, a timeless love song.

"So sad we lost "the possum" today. R.I.P George Jones and know we didn't stop loving you today. You will live on forever in our hearts."

A tweet from rock's Kings Of Leon drummer Nathan Followill, who grew up in Oklahoma, showed that the Jones' influence didn't toe the lines drawn by music genre.

"RIP George Jones, you'll be sorely missed. One of the all time greats. #allpossumsgotoheaven"

The Country Hall of Famer was infamous for his drinking and his turbulent relationships, most notably the one with Wynette, to whom he was married for six years during their rise in the early 70s. Jones bared his soul and wrote about the low points of his life in his 1997 autobiography. He also said that his fourth wife, Nancy, helped him get sober from alcohol and cocaine.

His final tour, which he announced in August 2012, was slated to roll through Durant, Okla., in November. Jones announced last year that he would retire after "The Grand Tour," which was to culminate around Thanksgiving 2013 with a grand finale tribute show featuring other legends, including Garth Brooks and Cyndi Lauper.

Jones was hospitalized in Nashville eight days ago, after going in for a routine check-up, CBS News reported last week. Doctors found he was running a slight fever and had irregular blood pressure.

In May 2012, he entered the hospital briefly for respiratory issues. He was also hospitalized overnight in January 2011 after a routine annual exam.

Jones is survived by his wife, Nancy, of their Franklin, Tenn., home and four children from previous marriages -- daughters Susan and Tamala Georgette and sons Jeffrey and Bryan.

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