Behind the Song Lyrics: “Remember When,” by Alan Jackson

With its relatable lyrics, simple melody, and soothing vocals, Alan Jackson’s “Remember When” has been pulling at the heartstrings of listeners since it was released in 2003. 

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“Remember When,” written solely by Jackson, was released in October of 2003 as the second and final single from his compilation album, Greatest Hits Volume II. More than a decade after his musical debut, Jackson had already made a name for himself with his traditional honky-tonk style and had recently made headlines with his song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” a tribute to lives lost in 9/11.

“Remember When” topped the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for two weeks and peaked at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, a remarkable rank for a traditional country song. 

Jackson wrote the heartfelt song as a tribute to his wife, Denise, who he met in 1976 at a Dairy Queen in his hometown of Newman, Georgia. Twenty-four years after their marriage in 1979, the song serves as a reminder of the love they shared that day. 

Remember when we vowed the vows and walked the walk / Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard / We lived and learned, life threw curves / There was joy, there was hurt / Remember when

The lyrics go on to describe how love changes and shifts and that not all of the changes are pretty. However, Jackson’s lyrics mark important milestones that brought the couple back together: the births of their three daughters, Mattie, Ali, and Dani in 1990, 1993, and 1997. 

Remember when the sound of little feet / Was the music we danced to week to week / Brought back the love, we found trust / Vowed we’d never give it up / Remember when

The song concludes by issuing a reminder of how much is still to come for the couple and the knowledge that they’ll even look back on the hard moments as something to love and cherish.

Remember when we said when we turned gray / When the children grow up and move away / We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad / For all the life we’ve had / And we’ll remember when

“Remember When” features a gentle mandolin melody and acoustic guitar to create a warm and melancholy sound. Jackson’s vocals overlay perfectly, full of emotion and heart. The second verse welcomes light percussion, swelling strings, and the signature country sound of steel guitar. The feeling created by the instruments matches the overall message of the song: nothing flashy or loud, just the notion of pure love and devotion. 

Jackson is one of the most celebrated country music artists of all time, selling more than 75 million records worldwide. He’s had 66 songs appear on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, 35 of which were No. 1. He’s earned two GRAMMY Awards, 16 CMA Awards, and 17 ACM Awards. Jackson is a member of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017 and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Watch the music video for “Remember When” below.

Photo by Kristy Belcher, courtesy of UMG

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