Alan Jackson Biography
Alan Jackson has always understood that country music is about connection—a contemporary connection to the icons of the genre, as well as the human connection passed from parent to child, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. It is this respect for both the music and the lives which encompass it, that has made him one of today’s most beloved artists.
His fans have responded in force. Having sold 36 million albums worldwide since his 1989 Here In The Real World debut, Jackson will enter 2002 on the crest of his 29th career #1 song, “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning).” Notably, it is also his 21st as a songwriter; an unprecedented feat that places him at the top of ASCAP’s rarified ‘Number One Club.’ “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” is the first release from his eleventh Arista/Nashville album, Drive (January 15).
Jackson also celebrated a number of hallmarks in 2001. His recording of “Where I Come From” spent three weeks at #1. The awards kept coming—the fans spoke loudly and from the heart when they honored him with six TNN & CMT Country Weekly Music Awards. Along the way he racked up his 50th Country Music Association award nomination, a stunning achievement that places him second on the all-time CMA nominations list.
A superstar who has never strayed from his roots, Jackson was honored by his home state in 2001 when he was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Never one to forget the ones that brung him, he also performed a benefit concert in his hometown of Newnan which raised over $200,000 for an emergency children’s shelter.
All of this speaks to the heart of Jackson’s appeal—a country superstar who remains down-to-earth in the face of all the accolades the industry can throw at him. Every CD he’s released has been a roots tour de force, and that has not changed with his new CD, Drive, where the acclaimed songwriter pens nine of the thirteen tracks himself. Jackson’s writing, his singing, his very life, have been tributes to country music’s greatest strength: human connection.
Nowhere is this better expressed than on the opening track “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” Jackson’s tribute to his late father, a mechanic who worked in the Ford plant near Jackson’s hometown of Newnan, Georgia. Accompanied by the rootsy, acoustic strains of harmonica, mandolin and guitar, Jackson reminisces about his youthful attempts at learning to drive a boat and a pickup truck under the watchful eye of his dad. The lesson is passed from father to son. The years pass, the cycle turns, but for Alan Jackson, the ancient connection remains and is passed down to his own children:
“I’m grown up now, three daughters of my own
I let them drive my old Jeep across the pasture at our home
Maybe one day they’ll reach back in their file
And pull out that old memory
and think of me and smile.”
Also in evidence on Drive is the connection between friends, displayed on “Designated Drinker,” Jackson’s duet with longtime pal George Strait. Having collaborated in the past on the CMA Award-winning hit “Murder on Music Row,” these two top traditionalists reunite in the studio for a heartfelt paean to male friendship. The song eloquently points out that in times of heartache, a true friend is there to lend a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on:
“I came here to get you to help me
I need a friend to see me through
I hated to call, I knew you wouldn’t mind at all
I know you know I’d do the same for you”
And then there is a flawed husband’s funny and touching attempt to explain to his wife that he’s just a “Work In Progress.” Jackson’s witty spin on the “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” dichotomy of marriage will no doubt bring a laugh of recognition from spouses nationwide.
Elsewhere, Jackson nails the universal sadness of a broken heart (“A Little Bluer Than That”), the simple comfort true love brings in the face of the nine-to-five grind (“Bring On the Night”), and a man’s regrets over a woman’s tears (“The Sounds”). Delivering straight from the heart, Jackson connects with his fans where they live.
And in the case of “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” that place would be America. After the horrific events of September 11, Jackson found himself doing what all sincere country songwriters have done since the very beginning: he awoke in the dead of night and put his heart to paper and pencil. Performing the song live for the first time at the CMA Awards on November 7, he expressed his own deeply personal sense of heartbreak and hope. An aching nation responded to “this singer of simple songs” by flooding radio stations of multiple formats with requests to hear the song before a studio version was even complete. (Within 24 hours after the CMA Awards, hundreds of radio stations across the country downloaded the televised broadcast and added it to their playlists, and Alan’s own website received over 400,000 hits from fans.) The song consequently went to #1 faster than any other country single in the past four years. Alan received thousands of letters from fans across the country, and within weeks of the performance the lyrics were even entered into the U.S. Congressional Record. Included on Drive are two versions of “Where Were You”—the studio cut and the live version from his CMA performance of November 7, 2001.
In an increasingly confusing world, Alan Jackson’s music continues to bring us back to this very simple yet profound tradition: Country music has always been by the people, of the people, and for the people. As a singer and songwriter, he has never shied away from all that means: the flaws, the pain, the regrets, the broken hearts.
But neither has he forgotten that it is the human connection—the one that extends from father to child, from husband to wife, from neighbor to neighbor, from citizen to citizen—that, in the end, is the tie that binds us to one another, and allows us to overcome even the hardest times. As the man himself puts it:
“Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us, and the greatest is love.”
In the end, it is Vince Gill—who can be heard introducing Jackson on the live version of “Where Were You”—who cuts straight to the heart of Alan Jackson’s enduring appeal: “The songs that he writes always tell it like it is—simple truths that come from his heart.”