On Friday, October 8, Alan Jackson surprised his fans at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville when he welcomed a special guest on stage to perform “You’ll Always Be My Baby (Written for Daughters’ Weddings)” from his new album.
First steps, first words / seems like yesterday you were just a girl, the Hall-of-Famer begins in characteristic, congenial twang. His middle daughter, Ali, steps in for the next line, Skinned knees, climbing trees / All those memories so close to me.
They alternate lines, conjuring up vivid imagery before arriving at the first chorus. Against the backdrop of the Jackson’s childhood scrapbook, the father-daughter duo delivers a touching tribute with intertwining harmonies: But you’ll always be my baby / No matter where you are / You’ll always be my baby / Forever in my heart.
As Ali steps in, she flips the lyrics to turn the tribute over to her adoring father. In the chorus, she repeats I’ll always be your baby. The emotional ballad hinges on a poignant bridge. Looking at his daughter, Jackson sings, So I say a prayer every day
That God will guide you as you find your way. Again, she fills in the words, assuring her dad, I know that you’re near, before they harmonize, Anytime my/your love is always here.
“You’ll Always Be My Baby (Written for Daughters’ Weddings)” is one of 15 songs Jackson wrote for his 21-track album Where Have You Gone. Produced by his go-to, Keith Stegall, the album is his first in six years since Angels & Alcohol in 2015. Jackson penned the song for his eldest daughter Mattie’s wedding in the summer of 2017, but in a press statement he shared that it was “so hard to do.” He added, “I told ’em, ‘I wrote this for all of you.” The father of three and 19-time ACM Award-winning artist reserved the heartfelt track for Ali and his youngest, Dani, down the road.
Watch the emotional performance of “You’ll Always Be My Baby,” below.
Photo by David McClister