Since arriving on the country music scene in 1989, Alan Jackson has become one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful superstars to ever call country music home. Amazingly, in this modern era, he did it all as a traditionalist.
Hailing from small town Georgia, Jackson started with singing gospel, but by his teenage years, he was already part of a local country duo. He worked odd jobs while performing with his country band, and got his first big break when his wife, Denise, passed on his demo tape to Glen Campbell after a chance meeting in an airport. He encouraged them to move to Nashville, and Jackson continued to work odd jobs while honing his craft as a singer and songwriter.
By 1989, he was the flagship artist of Arista’s new country division, and after a false start with “Blue Blooded Woman”, he scored a major hit with “Here in the Real World.” What followed was a nearly uninterrupted run of major hits, most of which Jackson wrote himself. His albums consistently sold multi-platinum, with “Chattahoochee” powering his third set, A Lot About Livin’ (and a Little ‘Bout Love), past the six million mark, a height he would reach again with both of his greatest hits collections. He was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1995.
What followed was the normal slowdown of a superstar in the latter half of the nineties. He continued to sell platinum and score big radio hits, but attention had moved on to younger and more pop-flavored acts. His biggest notoriety during this period came when he went off-script at the 1999 CMA Awards, singing part of George Jones’ “Choices” as a protest to Jones not being invited to sing his full song on that year’s show. But it was at the same awards show two years later, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, that Jackson performed the song that came to him in a dream: “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”
The instant classic powered Jackson back to multi-platinum sales, and he dominated the award shows for two years on the strength of the follow-up hits “Drive (For Daddy Gene)”, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Remember When.” Jackson continued to find great success at country radio, and received strong critical notices for two left turns in 2006: the gospel collection Precious Memories, and the smooth, Alison Krauss-produced Like Red on a Rose.
In recent years, Jackson’s topped the charts by collaborating with Zac Brown Band, started his own label imprint, and finally released the bluegrass album he’d wanted to record for years. Jackson’s second gospel collection, Precious Memories II, was the top-selling Christian Album of 2014. And in in a fitting final tribute, Jackson was chosen to perform “He Stopped Loving Her Today” to close the memorial service for his friend and influence, George Jones.
- Here in the Real World, 1990
- Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow, 1990
- Don’t Rock the Jukebox, 1991
- Chattahoochee, 1993
- Livin’ on Love, 1994
- Gone Country, 1995
- Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning), 2001
- Drive (For Daddy Gene), 2002
- It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (with Jimmy Buffett), 2003
- Remember When, 2003
- As She’s Walking Away (with Zac Brown Band), 2010
- Don’t Rock the Jukebox, 1991
- A Lot About Livin’ (and a Little ‘Bout Love), 1992
- Who I Am, 1994
- Drive, 2002
- Precious Memories, 2006
- Like Red on a Rose, 2006
- Good Time, 2008
- The Bluegrass Album, 2013
Next: #21. Elvis Presley
Previous: #23. Charley Pride