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      George Jones, country superstar, has died at 81

      George Jones, the peerless, hard-living country singer who recorded dozens of hits about good times and regrets and peaked with the heartbreaking classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today," has died. He was 81.

      Jones was scheduled to perform in Watertown on August 3 as part of his "Fairwell Tour."

      Publicist Kirt Webster says Jones died Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after being hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure.

      Known for his clenched, precise baritone, Jones had No. 1 songs in five separate decades, 1950s to 1990s, and was idolized not just by fellow country singers, but by Frank Sinatra, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and countless others.

      In a career that lasted more than 50 years, "Possum" recorded more than 150 albums and became the champion and symbol of traditional country music, a well-lined link to his hero, Hank Williams.

      Garth Brooks calls him "the greatest voice ever to grace country music." Merle Haggard agrees. And Dolly Parton says her "heart is absolutely broken" on hearing the news of the death of Jones. She calls Jones her "all-time favorite singer."

      Songwriter Bobby Braddock, who provided Jones with 29 songs over the decades, says, "No one in country music has influenced so many other artists."