Singers and Grand Old Opry stars Little Jimmy Dickens and George Jones are both being honored with special memorials. Grief and love is often expressed creatively. Our sympathies go out to the families of France’s Charlie Hebdo victims of terrorism. Their huge memorial service was attended by world dignitaries and a million others. This type of memorial is planned, yet spontaneous, a tribute to the person and to an idea, and it often happens just after death. Later, a statue or bridge or even a Wall is built to honor the person. This type of memorial is more permanent. This month in Nashville, a spontaneous musical tribute and a permanent new museum memorialized two musicians that brought delight to many hearts: Little Jimmy Dickens and George Jones.
I stumbled across Jimmy Dickens’ home last year. Little Jimmy Dickens (December 19, 1920 – January 2, 2015) definitely had a Music City gate, and wrought iron work on his balconies showed a musical heart. A Grand Old Opry member since 1948, the singer of Take An Old Cold Tater and Wait was memorialized many ways upon his death at age 94, ten days ago. Country music stars, fans and friends attended his Celebration of Life at the Grand Old Opry, recalling his music and jokes. Dickens had performed there as usual, just a few weeks before. Later Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs would play a special tribute musical show on WSM Radio. For me, I’ll remember how unafraid he was to link his name with music, during life, right there to any passerby – with his gate!
Watching Jones and Tammy Wynette perform a musical marriage onstage in Atlanta was an eerie experience when I was a teenager. The voice of George Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) creates an imperishable memory. Maybe the couple was having troubles then, for it also seemed a forced staging. Performances and other stories will live on in a new museum, set to open this April in downtown Nashville at 128 Second Avenue North. His first Billboard chart-topper was White Lightning in 1959, written by J.P. Richardson. A new film about the song will be shown at the Museum. Jones’ memorable He Stopped Loving Her Today tells the story of a love until death and is sometimes called the greatest song of country music. George also declared I Don’t Need No Rockin’ Chair in 1992’s Vocal Event of the Year. A rocking chair has a place in the museum, but George isn’t in it – we remember his refusal. Memorials should evoke the person they remember. More fitting perhaps for memories of the hit-maker will be the museum’s roof-top bar overlooking the Cumberland River, which I intend to visit, having one for the music and memory of the unforgettable George Jones.
Whether spontaneous or permanent, a memorial should express what was important in the life of those remembered.
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