By any measure, country icon, Alan Jackson, has attained superstar status, with more than 25 years of making music his living, and 60 million albums sold, but don't expect the “singer of simple songs” to be comfortable with any level of adoration. The singer-songwriter still loves sharing music, but shies away from the spotlight, and still fights shyness and more than a few jitters before going on stage. He talks about the things that drive his music, and keep him going, in a July 12 profile for “CBS Sunday Morning,”
“I sing songs about life and love and heartache, drinking and dancing, and having a good time,” Jackson puts it. Everyday things may seem to be the focus of his songs on the surface, but his work focuses on core values that state to the Everyman heart, and that fits right for the singer. His current release, Angels & Alcohol, keeps true to familiar themes for the artist who took a little coaching from President George W. Bush at a state dinner “not to drink that,” and to wash his hands with the liquid in the finger bowl. Hits like “Drive” come direct from the core for Jackson, who got his affection and aptitude for anything with a motor from his dad, Eugene, a Ford mechanic. Alan made “tinkering” payoff long before he had any chart toppers, letting him buy vehicles, then fix and sell them. He doesn't even care that there is no more room to display trophies in his home outside Nashville, because he prefers the attic, where his desk is a modified ’66 pickup, and he can recall the special birthday gift from wife, Denise, some years back, which was the same 1955, Thunderbird that her husband sold to make a down payment on their first home. The couple, who married at 18, stayed in an “itty-bitty,” to quote the Jackson song, basement apartment, until the first number one song came, and they were comfortable that dad could make a living in music. Part of the strength of their union comes from the storms that they have weathered, and the honesty in the siege. Alan Jackson admitted his affair to his wife in 1997, they separated, but soon reconciled. “That just makes me human,” reflects Jackson, and Denise put her side of the story in her best-selling book, and has since written a collection of affirmations of faith.
This author can attest to the truth that “fame fits Jackson like a bad pair of boots,” in recalling a 1987 concert, with the blonde baritone opening for then sensation, Randy Travis. From the time his name was announced, the screams began, and became deafening to the point of distraction, clearly disheartening the young artist, and almost dismissing his gift of music. Thankfully, Jackson kept at it until people couldn’t help but listen. His anthemic, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” came whole and complete in the middle of the night, with the composer getting up in his underwear to record it before it disappeared from mind, about a month after the 9/11 attacks. Jackson was reticent to release the song, not wanting to be interpreted as manipulating any aspect of the painful period, but he's even more reluctant around so many who want to “have me on a pedestal-- I'm just the same.” He still needs the occasional liquid encouragement to overcome shyness before a show, and is comfortable singing his sea songs, done with Jimmy Buffet, and remembering how “I've caught everything that I wanted to catch” on fishing trips. The artist who has no need to fish for success any longer finds greatest peace in the quiet life.