“It’s such an honor to be included with all these people,” a humble and visibly moved Alan Jackson said as he became a member of the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual induction gala in New York City on Thursday.
Already a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Jackson’s latest career-defining honor places him alongside the greatest composers of all-time – from the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter…to Motown greats Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland…John Lennon and Paul McCartney…film icons John Williams and Henry Mancini…rock greats Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards…R&B legends Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye…and country standard-bearers Merle Haggard, Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson.
“Tonight is special because it honors Alan for his greatest qualities – his words, his music, his imagination, his imagery, his honesty,” said longtime producer, songwriter and friend Keith Stegall, who presided over Jackson’s induction. “He is fearless; nothing is ever off limits.” Alan has a career-spanning partnership with Stegall, who also performed “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” a song the pair co-wrote with Roger Murrah.
“Most people I know are just working, trying to make a living, raise children, have a good time and enjoy life. Sometimes their lives are already hard…and they just want something that makes ‘em feel good or helps them get through a hard time – music is a relief from some of that sometimes,” Jackson noted as he received songwriting’s highest honor. “Keith said I’m just a singer of simple songs. And I am.”
To illustrate his point, the country icon shared a little-known story prompted by a backstage encounter moments earlier. “I ran into Clive Davis; hadn’t seen him in years. He was always real supportive of my writing early on,” he shared, “One day I wrote this song – it was for a woman. I couldn’t sing it. I called Clive [and said], ‘I believe Whitney [Houston] could sing this thing.’ He listened to it…called me back and said, ‘Boy, that’s a sweet song’.” Jackson brought the house down with laughter when he concluded, “He said, ‘But I’ll be honest with you, Alan – I don’t think Whitney has seen a washing machine in 15 years. I don’t think she could sing that’.” With that, the humble inductee noted, “I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ll always be writing about washing machines.” Jackson then offered up another of his signature songs, the simple-yet-stirring self-penned, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”
Jackson’s songwriting credits – saluted with his Songwriters Hall of Fame induction – are part of the fabric of modern country music. Beginning with his debut hit, “Here in the Real World,” and continuing as he began “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow,” Jackson’s personal observations on the world we live in have resonated – and continue to do so – around the globe. His pen has given us the haunting “Midnight in Montgomery”…the wistful “Remember When”…the life-celebrating “Drive”…the poignant “Little Man”…and the instantly-recognizable “Chattahoochee.” He’s shared life experiences with us in music and words; in fact, he’s been a songwriter on 24 of 35 chart-topping songs he’s recorded, the kind of accomplishment reserved for the likes of Haggard, Lennon and McCartney.
Jackson’s fellow inductees also honored at Thursday’s ceremony were John Mellencamp, Robert “Kool” Bell, Ronald Bell, George Brown & James “JT” Taylor of Kool & the Gang, Jermaine Dupri, Allee Willis, Steve Dorff and Jackson’s fellow Grand Ole Opry member Bill Anderson. Hall of Famer Neil Diamond, singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and veteran music executive Lucian Grainge were honored with other career awards.
Prior to Thursday’s induction, Jackson reflected on his songwriting in a comprehensive interview with Billboard and with Spotify, where he was showcased in a new installment of their Hot Country profile series.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing the work and lives of composers and lyricists who create music. It celebrates and honors the contributions of our great popular music songwriters, while developing new writing talent through workshops, showcases, scholarships, and digital initiatives. Established in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame honors those whose work represents a spectrum of the most beloved songs from the world’s popular music songbook. To qualify for induction, a songwriter must be a published writer for a minimum of 20 years with a notable catalog of hit songs. Jackson is one of just over 400 songwriters so honored.
Jackson’s induction to the Songwriters Hall of Fame comes just a year after he was enshrined as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the latest in a long line of accolades that include three CMA Entertainer of the Year honors, more than 25 years of membership in the Grand Ole Opry, a 2016 Billboard ranking as one of the Top 10 Country Artists of All-Time, induction to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Heritage Award as the most-performed country songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years. On August 22, Alan will be saluted by the Academy of Country Music at the annual ACM Honors event in Nashville as the recipient of this year’s Cliffie Stone Icon Award, one of the organization’s highest honors, given to artists or industry leaders who have “advanced the popularity of the genre through their contributions in multiple facets of the industry such as songwriting, recording, production, touring, film, television, literary works, philanthropic contributions and other goodwill efforts.”