His career was on the wane. Mentored into the big time by none other than the now ailing Glen Campbell, in the early to mid-nineties, on the coattails of Garth Brooks, he was one of Nashville’s big-hatted darlings. With a pure country George Strait-ish set of tonsils, he had a string of top ten hits, with album sales in the stratosphere – these were the good days for the music industry generally before the digital era took hold. As the decade moved on and turned the corner into the new millennium, his popularity waned as he lost his freshness and his appeal to the younger demographic on approaching forty. It would seem that his candle would flicker, then snuff out.
Then in 2001 the unthinkable occurred. Fortress America was breached by a coordinated terrorist attack on the symbols of the nation. The USA; the world would never be the same again. The nation grieved for all it lost, clinging to anything, or any words, that could give expression to the countless tears shed as a country came to terms with the certainty that they were no longer impregnable. The guitar picker, a good ol’ country boy at heart, who wore his heart on his sleeve, grieved too. One night, soon after the event, he awoke from his sleep and wrote down some words. He gave his country, that night, the song by which a nation could make sense of all. Alan Jackson gave the people a simple, plain spoken expression of pain and reaction. It helped to ensure that recovery was possible. The song was ‘Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)’.
His composition revived his career, although that would have been furtherest from his mind as he sang it to the land he loved at the 2001 Country Music Association Awards not long after September 11. His next album included it, both in studio and live version, soaring up the charts as a result – making up a sizeable proportion of the 80 million in record sales the artist has had globally to date. The collection of twelve songs is ‘Drive’.
I had liked Jackson well before that, adding each new album of his to my CD shelves as it came out. He, along with Clint Black, appealed to me more than Brooks ever did during the era of the big hats – before Billy Ray Cyrus became the new golden boy. Jackson seemed to offer a purer, less razz-ma-tazz, approach to his music in the true country way. It is a little ironic then that my favourite collection of his, ‘Like Red on a Rose’, has been derided as against the values of his hitherto oeuvre. But back to ‘Drive’.
Jackson has been married to the one woman since 1979. His Denise has had a New York Times best-selling book during that time – ‘It’s All About Him’ – about ‘Finding the Love of My Life’. In part it references her hubby’s 1998 indiscretion which saw the couple separate temporarily. They regrouped with the help of their faith. After all those years together it would seem she truly is his ‘Once in a Lifetime Love’ – the track on ‘Drive’ that is the point of this exercise.
Some people have it, some people don’t
Some people never will
Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve got it
Sometimes it’s perfectly clear
Well I know it’s out there I’ve seen it happen
I know the way it should feel
Cause there’s no mistakin’
That good kind of achin’
Of a once in a lifetime love
And those readers who know this old scribbler well will no doubt by now know where I’m heading with this. At the present time I’m amidst quite a large dose of ‘That good kind of achin‘. You see, it took me a while to find her, so now I can’t bear to be away from her for too long – after having spent many years of our relationship being a bi-coastal couple. The love of a son – and his dog – now sees me again at the opposite end of the island to our snug abode on the southern river. And as much as I have, during these six weeks of separation, come to adore the little seaside town of Bridport and its attractions, I am missing her terribly.
So if you think you’ve got it
If you feel it inside you
Don’t let it slip away
Cause you may not ever find what you never
Thought you’d have anyway
And if you’ve always had it and just realized it
You know how lucky you are
To wake up beside what some never find
A once in a lifetime love
Maybe the above words, scribed by Jackson, are a reference to what he almost let happen back in ’98 to cause him to almost ‘… let it slip away.’ Many of his ballads are patently about his lovely lady, the mother of his three daughters. I’d like to imagine, now that his career has again quietened and Nashville again having moved on to the young guns whose names mean little to me – and I suspect him – that in his dotage he has found the quietude, contentment and continued love with his Denise as I have with my Leigh.
Late last year Jackson was again grieving with the passing of his good mate George Jones. He was asked to perform The Possum’s signature tune ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ at the old country warbler’s funeral. He did it simply, without fanfare – and from the heart, as always. He’ll never stop loving his Denise; I’ll never stop loving my Leigh-Leigh.
Once in a lifetime love
A love like we’ve all dreamed of
It may go disguised
Right before your eyes
A once in a lifetime love
Jackson at George Jones’ funeral
Alan Jackson website = http://www.alanjackson.com/welcome.html
YouTube – Once in a Lifetime Love = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo969dnqcOA
YouTube – Jackson at the 2001 CMA Awards = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlhOHSCHV6c
YouTube – Jackson at George Jones’ Funeral = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbjpbqowX3Y