Alan Jackson is no stranger to the top of the charts. Since making his debut in 1989 with “Blue Blooded Woman,” the Newnan, Ga., native has placed 81 titles on Billboard’s country singles chart, among them 51 Top 10 songs and 26 No. 1 hits. He’s charted 29 titles on Billboard’s country albums list, including 13 No. 1 titles.
Needless to say, Jackson is one of country music’s most successful artists. His numerous awards include three Grammys and 16 CMA trophies, including three entertainer of the year awards.
However, his achievements aren’t limited to the country genre. Jackson has also recorded two chart-topping gospel albums — separate volumes of Precious Memories. The Gospel Music Association recently honored Jackson with the 2013 Mainstream Contribution to Gospel Music Award.
On his latest project, Jackson pays homage to one of his favorite art forms with The Bluegrass Record, which has spent six weeks on Billboard’s bluegrass albums chart.
“It’s been probably 15 years I’ve been trying to do this thing,” says Jackson, who wrote eight new songs for the album. “I’ve always been a fan of real music. It’s always been about the songs, singing, the harmonies and real playing, and that’s what bluegrass has always been. It’s real players, songwriters, real singers singing harmonies, and it’s just real music.”
Whether singing country, gospel or bluegrass, Jackson has always been about real music. Here’s a look at some of his finest moments.
“Here in the Real World”
Jackson’s first single, “Blue Blooded Woman,” was released in 1989 and only climbed to No. 45 on Billboard’s country singles chart. However, his second release, “Here in the Real World,” proved to be a bona fide hit, peaking at No. 3 and establishing him as one of the format’s hottest new singer-songwriters. In this pensive song about a failed relationship, Jackson compared the way love is portrayed in movies to the harsh reality of a breakup in real life. The song struck a chord with listeners as Jackson gently crooned “Darlin’, it’s sad but true/But the one thing I’ve learned from you/Is how the boy don’t always get the girl/Here in the real world.”
“I’d Love You All Over Again”
This was the fourth single from Jackson’s debut album, Here in the Real World, and it became his very first No. 1 hit in March 1991, remaining at the summit for two weeks. Jackson wrote the song for his wife Denise, and the lyric begins with him musing that he can’t believe that it had been 10 years since they said, “I do.” In the chorus, Jackson declares, “And if I had it to do all over/I’d do it all over again/If tomorrow I found one more chance to begin/I’d love you all over again.” It’s a gorgeous country love song that remains one of the most potent hits in Jackson’s arsenal.
“Don’t Rock the Jukebox”
This up-tempo celebration of traditional country music became Jackson’s second No. 1 song when it hit the top of the country charts in July 1991, remaining at the summit for three weeks. The song was the title track of Jackson’s sophomore album and the first of five hit singles from what would become a landmark album in Jackson’s career. “Someday,” “Dallas” and “Love’s Got a Hold on You” all hit No. 1, and the Hank Williams tribute “Midnight in Montgomery” peaked at No. 3. “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” finds Jackson singing about a broken heart and how there’s no substitute for good country music. In the chorus, he sings: “Don’t rock the jukebox/I wanna hear some Jones/My heart ain’t ready/For the Rolling Stones/I don’t feel like rockin’ Since my baby’s gone/So don’t rock the jukebox Play me a country song.” The legendary George Jones makes a special guest appearance on the tune.
Released in May 1993, “Chattahoochee” was the third single from Jackson’s A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’Bout Love) album. Written by Jackson and Jim McBride, the song starts off with an absolutely infectious guitar riff, and then Jackson launches into a well-crafted lyric about the joys of growing up where guys would build “a pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight/Talking ’bout cars and dreaming ’bout women/Never had a plan just a livin’ for the minute.” Jackson describes it as “a song about having fun, growing up and coming of age in a small town, which really applies to anyone across the country, not just by the Chattahoochee. We never thought it would be as big as it’s become.” Buoyed by a fun video where Jackson impressively did his own waterskiing, the single spent four weeks at No. 1 and was named the CMA single of the year in 1993 and song of the year in 1994.
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
Decades from now, if there is one song that people associate with Jackson, it will likely be this poignant response to the events of Sept. 11. A few weeks after the terrorist attacks, Jackson woke up at 4 a.m. and chronicled not only his feelings but the sentiments of the nation when he wrote this emotional ballad. Jackson debuted the song on the CMA Awards in 2001 and received an immediate standing ovation. Radio stations jumped on the song, and it climbed to No. 1 the country chart in just six weeks and remained at the summit for five weeks. The powerful lyric examines how people felt in the wake of tragedy, yet the chorus is a beacon of hope as Jackson sings, “I know Jesus and I talk to God/And I remember this from when I was young/Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us/And the greatest is love.”
“Drive (For Daddy Gene)”
This tune was the title track and second single from Jackson’s 10th studio album. Jackson wrote the song for his father Eugene Jackson, who passed away in January 2000. In the song, Jackson shares memories of his father letting him drive their old truck and their wood boat and how special those experiences made a young boy feel. The third verse describes him letting his three daughters drive a Jeep around the pasture at their home. The single was accompanied by a unique video presented as animated pictures coming to life out of a storybook. The song topped the chart for four weeks in 2002.
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
This party anthem featuring Jimmy Buffett was the lead single from Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume II, released in 2003. Written by Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins, the song spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the country singles chart and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Jackson’s highest entry on the pop chart. It was also the No. 3 song of the decade on Billboard’s country chart. The lyrics deal with the frustrations of a man who hasn’t had a day off in over a year and is ready to leave for lunch and drink away the rest of the day. It’s easy to justify his actions because it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. This hit earned Jackson and Buffett the CMA vocal event award in 2003.
OK, so this song didn’t top the chart, but it’s impossible to recap Jackson’s distinguished career without mentioning his gospel albums. Released in 2006, Precious Memories was recorded as a Christmas gift to his mother. It was never intended to be sold commercially, but when a record executive coaxed him to share it with the world, it became one of Jackson’s most successful albums, selling more than 2 million copies and spending 22 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Christian albums chart and two weeks at No. 1 on the country albums list. It won the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award in 2007 for country album of the year. Ironically, the song “Precious Memories” wasn’t included on the first gospel album, but when Jackson released a second volume in March 2013, the song was included alongside other gospel classics such as “Just as I Am,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “Amazing Grace.”
Released in October 2003, this beautiful ballad is among Jackson’s most compelling hits. Inspired by Jackson’s wife Denise, the lyrics look back at the milestones in a long marriage from young love to having children to growing old together as Jackson sings, “Remember when 30 seemed so old/Now lookin’ back it’s just a steppin’ stone/To where we are/Where we’ve been/Said we’d do it all again/Remember when.” The video features a tender scene of the couple slow dancing. “Remember When” topped the charts for two weeks in 2004.
With the release of The Bluegrass Album, Jackson has moved into new territory and has topped charts he’s never scaled before. In addition to the album camping out at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass albums chart for multiple weeks, the upbeat tune “Blacktop” debuted at No. 1 on the weekly chart of Bluegrass Today, a website devoted to the genre. This marks only the third time a song has entered the Bluegrass Today weekly chart at No. 1. Though today’s country charts are riddled with tunes about backwoods and dirt roads, Jackson penned a clever salute to the benefits of blacktop, which begins with the lines: “This ain’t no song ’bout the good old days/Simpler times or easy ways/Oh, how I long for an old dirt road/Greener grass or a lighter load/I was glad to see the blacktop/When they laid it down in ’65/Yeah I was glad to see the blacktop/No more dust in my eyes.” Jackson recently took bluegrass to the Big Apple when he performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Oct. 28 and appeared on Late Show With David Letterman the following night to perform “Blacktop.”