Alan Jackson entered country music in 1989 by sticking like glue to his traditional music roots, even lamenting the pop state of the genre by the end of the era on his George Strait duet “Murder On Music Row.”
“Merle and George and Hank,” said Jackson. “A lot of young people liked that music when I was growing up, but it felt like nobody was making it. Somebody had to go to Nashville to make that kind of country. Randy [Travis] did and was great. But real country music is gone. It feels like 1985 again, and somebody has to bring it back.”
Jackson added, “Because it’s not just 50-year-old people, it’s 20- and 25-year-olds. They have a real ear for country music because it is real and genuine. They know the difference, and you can’t fake those things.”
His first No. 1 hit “I’d Love You All Over Again,” off his 1990 debut, Here in the Real World, led the collection of his 31 chart-topping songs that followed, including “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Chattahoochee,” “ Gone Country,” and “Where Were You (When the World Stops Turning),” and more from a career spanning 21 albums through 2021.
In 2017, Loretta Lynn inducted Jackson into the Country Music Hall of Fame and he joined the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame a year later.
Jackson, who was diagnosed with the neurological disorder Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease in 2011, was recently honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 56th Annual CMA Awards, which featured a tribute performance by Dierks Bentley, Carrie Underwood, Jon Pardi, and Lainey Wilson, who sang through his hits “Remember When,” “Chattahoochee,” “Drive” and “Chasing That Neon Rainbow,” before Jackson appeared on stage himself to close with “Don’t Rock the Jukebox.” In October 2022, Jackson was also honored with the Artist of a Lifetime award during CMT’s Artist of the Year Ceremony.
“Country music’s been real good to me,” said Jackson during his 2022 CMA acceptance speech. “I’ve been so blessed. I’m still living that honky tonk dream.”
Adding to Jackson’s classic catalog of country music, here are three other songs he wrote for Randy Travis, Clay Walker, and Faith Hill.
1. “Better Class of Losers,” Randy Travis (1991)
Written by Alan Jackson and Randy Travis
Co-written and recorded by Randy Travis, “Better Class of Losers,” was featured on his seventh album, High Lonesome. The song tells the story about the downside of upper-class living and peaked at No. 2 in the U.S. and Canada and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
I’m getting out of this high rise penthouse suite
Where we pretend life’s rosy and sweet
I’m going back to the folks that I used to know
Where everyone is what they seem to be
And these high class friends that you like to hang around
When they look my way they’re always looking down
And I’m tired of spending every dime I make
To finance this way of life I’ve learned to hate
I’m going back to a better class of losers
Well, this up town living’s really got me down
I need friends who don’t pay their bills on home computers
And they buy their coffee beans already ground
And you think it’s disgraceful that they drink three dollar wine
But a better class of loser suits me fine
The pair also wrote the High Lonesome track, “Forever Together,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs & Singles, and Jackson co-wrote a third track, “Allergic to the Blues,” with Jim McBride.
2. “If I Could Make a Living,” Clay Walker (1994)
Written by Alan Jackson, Keith Stegall and Roger Murrah
The title track and first single of Clay Walker’s second album, “If I Could Make a Living” became a No. 1 hit on the country charts for the country singer in 1994. Walker admitted that he was leaning more toward the traditional country sound when he was thinking of the song, co-written by Alan Jackson, Roger Murrah, and Keith Stegall after it was arranged with a more country-pop production.
“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing songs with pop melodies, but I find the more mature I get with my music, the more traditional I become,” said Walker. “The older I get, the more I love that fiddle and pedal [steel] sound, that pure country sound.”
If I could make a livin’ out of lovin’ you
I’d be a millionaire in a week or two
I’d be doin’ what I love and lovin’ what I do
If I could make a livin’ out of lovin’ you
Early every morning when the sun comes up
I’m punching that clock on the wall
Breakin’ my back just to make a buck
Wishing I was in your arms
3. “I Can’t Do That Anymore,” Faith Hill (1995)
Written by Alan Jackson
On Faith Hill’s second album, It Matters to Me, Jackson shared the song “I Can’t Do That Anymore,” the fifth single off the album, peaking at No. 8 on the charts. Written solely by Jackson, “I Can’t Do That Anymore” is a story told from the female perspective, of a woman who realizes she has compromised herself—left her job, concerned about her appearance, and gave up her dreams—to make someone else happy.
Cut my hair the way you wanted
Watched you become important
Quit my job to make our new home far away
Now you’re Mr. Successful
And I’m queen of the treadmill
Trying to stay the size you think that I should stay
I used to dream about what I would be
Last night I dreamed about a washing machine
I keep on giving
But I can’t stop living
A woman needs a little something of her own
I like happy endings
I don’t like depending
I keep right on pretending
But I can’t do that anymore
Photos: Courtesy of UMG Nashville