When it comes country music, there is something truly special about Alan Jackson songs. Few have scored more hits and earned more respect than he has since bursting on the scene as part of the famed “Class of ’89,” which included Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Travis Tritt.
Since then, Jackson has charted 35 No. 1 singles, sold more than 75 million records and won countless awards. The two-time Grammy winner and former Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year has been inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and is a longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Known for his quiet, shy nature and insightful songwriting, the 64-year-old Newnan, GA native has earned a reputation as the poet of the common man. Whether capturing the fun of a summer day on the river in his hit song “Chattahoochee” or the beauty of enduring love in “Remember When,” Alan Jackson songs have been the soundtrack of country music fans’ lives for more than three decades.
His most recent album, Where Have You Gone, released in 2021 and includes some of the best songs of the singer’s distinguished career. “I’m in a wonderful place for me personally and career wise,” Jackson told Billboard when the album released. “I’m at a place where I’m semi-retired almost and enjoying life. My family is great, and I can relax and just make music when I want to and like I want to because I know I still have a lot of fans out there that want to hear what I like to do.”
Over the years, the tall, lanky troubadour has remained a staunch purveyor of traditional country music serving up heartfelt lyrics buoyed by fiddle and steel guitar. Here, we take a walk down memory lane with a look behind the scenes at some of his best.
20 iconic Alan Jackson songs
1. “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” (1990)
Co-written with Nashville songwriting legend Jim McBride, this autobiographical tune celebrates Jackson’s journey from small town Georgia to the top of the country music charts. The song was the fourth single from Jackson’s debut album, Here in the Real World.
In the album’s liner notes, Jackson shared how the song came about. “Jim McBride and I were talking about my life in Georgia and the experience of playing the honky tonk circuit. I remembered a radio that my daddy won when I was a young child and how my mama used to sing to my sisters and me. I also remembered how my mama hated for me to play in the bars. All those things set the story in motion, and within a few sessions, my life chasing that neon rainbow was set to music.”
2. “Here in the Real World” (1990)
This is one of the Alan Jackson songs that made him a bonafide country star. It was the second single and title track of his debut album. “If life were like the movies, I’d never be blue,” Jackson sings in the song which laments the fact that “the boy don’t always get the girl, here in the real world.”
3. “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” (1991)
Jackson has always been known as a champion of traditional country music and this song is a celebration of his love for the hardcore country sound. The song became Jackson’s second No. 1 hit and the title track of one of his best-selling albums.
Jackson shared the inspiration for the song, “I wanna tell you a little story about an incident that happened on the road a couple years ago when me and my band, The Strayhorns, were playing this little truck stop lounge up in Doswell, Virginia, a place called Geraldine’s. We’d been there for four or five nights, you know, playing those dance sets. It’d been a long night, I took a break and walked over to the Jukebox. Roger, my bass player, was already over there reading the records, you know. I leaned up on the corner of it and one of the legs was broken off, jukebox kind of wobbling around, you know. And Roger looked up at me and said, ‘Don’t Rock the Jukebox.’”
At the end of the video Jones, who is referenced throughout the song, makes an appearance.
4. “Someday” (1991)
The second single from Jackson’s Don’t Rock the Jukebox album, is a mournful ballad that showcases the heart-in-throat emotion that makes Jackson such a compelling vocalist. Witten by Jackson and Jim McBride, the lyric paints a portrait of a man who keeps promising the woman in his life that “someday I’ll get my life straight,” but he never does. When she had enough of empty promises, she leaves. The song hit the top of the country charts and remains one of the most enduring Alan Jackson songs.
5. “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)” (1992)
Jackson and Randy Travis wrote this song when they were on tour together in 1991. Though they originally intended to pitch the R&B flavored song to blues legend B.B. King, Jackson decided to record it himself and released it as the first single from his A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘bout Love) album. The song became a No. 1 hit and won an award from Music City News for being one of the most performed songs of the year.
6. “Chattahoochee” (1993)
Few songs capture the simple joys of a sun-splashed day of watery fun better than this infectious up tempo hit. “Chattahoochee” was the third single from Jackson’s A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘Bout Love) album. It went to No 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and won Jackson both Single and Song of the Year honors at the CMA Awards.
In the liner notes for his 1995 compilation album, The Greatest Hits Collection, Jackson wrote, “Jim McBride and I were trying to write an up-tempo song and Jim came in with the line ‘way down yonder on the Chattahoochee.’ It kind of went from there. It’s a song about having fun, growing up, and coming of age in a small town – which really applies to anyone across the country, not just by the Chattahoochee. We never thought it would be as big as it’s become.”
The video, featuring Jackson waterskiing in his jeans and cowboy hat is one of the most fun country videos ever.
7. “Mercury Blues” (1993)
Written by K.C. Douglas and Robert Geddins, “Mercury Blues” was originally titled “Mercury Boogie” and became a hit for Douglas in 1949. Jackson recorded the song on his A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘bout Love) album and it popped up at No. 2 on the country charts. The song later became a commercial for Ford pick up trucks.
Check out Jackson performing the song on an episode of Tim Allen’s Tv show Home Improvement.
8. “Livin’ on Love” (1994) Alan Jackson songs
Released as the second single from Jackson’s Who I Am album, this mid tempo hit became his ninth No. 1 on the country charts. The song celebrates a couple who start out as “two young people without a thing,” and as life progresses it’s love that grows and gives life meaning. This video was filmed at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheater during Jackson’s 25th Anniversary Keepin’ It Country Tour.
9. “Gone Country” (1994)
The uptempo hit offered an interesting commentary on the country music scene in the mid 90s as the lyric speaks of artists whose careers are flailing in other genres trying to move into country music. Jackson had this to say about the song: “When I first heard this song I fell in love with it. I wish that I’d written it cause it says a lot of things that I’d like to say. I think it’s just a fun song actually, celebrating how country music has become more widespread and accepted by all types of people all over the country.”
10. “Summertime Blues” (1994) Alan Jackson songs
Though Jackson is known for writing nearly all of his hits, he also knows how to pick a classic and put his own unique stamp on it. Written by Eddie Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart, “Summertime Blues” was originally a top ten hit for Cochran in 1958 and it has been covered over the years by The Who, Blue Cheer, T. Rex and Brian Setzer, who portrayed Cochran in the film La Bamba. Jackson recorded it on his Who I Am album and took it to the top of the country charts.
11. “Little Bitty” (1996) Alan Jackson songs
This fun uptempo tune was the first single from Jackson’s fifth studio album Everything I Love. Written by legendary singer/songwriter Tom T. Hall, the song celebrates the joy to be found in life’s simple pleasures with a chorus that relates: “It’s alright to be little bitty/A little hometown or a big old city/Might as well share, might as well smile/Life goes on for a little bitty while.” The song became Jackson’s 14th No. 1 country hit.
Here’s Jackson performing “Little Bitty” at Farm Aid in 2000.
12. “Home” (1996)
Though Jackson recorded “Home” on his 1990 debut album, Here in the Real World, it didn’t become a hit until he put it on The Greatest Hits Collection in 1996 and released it as s single. One of Jackson’s most heartfelt and personal songs, the lyrics honor his parents and the life they built for their family.
In the opening lines he sings, “In small town Georgia over 40 years ago/Her maiden name was Musick until she met that Jackson boy/They married young like folks did then/Not a penny to their name/They believed the one you vowed to love should always stay the same.”
13.“Right on the Money” (1998) Alan Jackson songs
The second single from Jackson’s High Mileage album, this engaging mid-tempo tune was written by Charlie Black and Phil Vassar, a country star in his own right known for such hits as “Six-pack Summer” and “Just Another Day in Paradise.” “Right on the Money” is a sweet love song that touts a woman’s love and the song became Jackson’s 16th No. 1.
14. “Murder on Music Row” (2000)
Jackson joined forces with George Strait on this cleverly written song about the death of traditional country music thanks to the country pop favored by the gatekeepers on Music Row, the area of Nashville known as the epicenter of the country music industry. Although George and Alan’s version was never officially released as a single, it got enough airplay to climb to No. 38 on the country chart. The two superstars performed the song on the CMA Awards in 1999 and a year later it won the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year and won CMA Song of the Year the following year.
15. “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” (2001)
Jackson wrote this song in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and performed it for the first time on the CMA Awards that fall. There wasn’t a dry eye in the venue when he finished, and the standing ovation was thundering. “I didn’t want to write a patriotic song,” Jackson has said. “And I didn’t want it to be vengeful, either. But I didn’t want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day.”
The song captured the pain, disbelief and confusion Americans felt following the attacks and topped the country chart for five weeks and won both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards for Song of the Year and Grammy for Best Country Song.
16. “Drive” (2002) Alan Jackson Songs
This is one of the Alan Jackson songs that he wrote, and was a tribute to his father, Eugene Jackson, who passed away in 2000. Like many of Jackson’s songs, the lyric paints a picture of the memories that have shaped his life. He said he didn’t want to honor his dad with a sad, maudlin song, and he didn’t.
“Drive” is a heartfelt song that spotlights the warm bond between him and his dad as well as his love for his daughters. In the last verse, he sings, “I’m grown up now, three daughters of my own/I let them drive my old jeep across the pasture at our home/Maybe one day they’ll reach back in their file/and pull out that old memory and think of me and smile.”
17. “Remember When” (2003) Alan Jackson songs
Jackson wrote this beautiful, steel guitar-laced ballad about his enduring marriage to his wife Denise. The couple were high school sweethearts in Georgia and this song chronicles their relationship from the early years to raising their three daughters, surviving a rocky patch in their relationship and ultimately settling into a mature, long-lasting relationship and looking back on their life together. The song spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and has become one of the most beloved Alan Jackson songs. The romantic video includes footage of him dancing with Denise.
18. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (2003)
Over the years, Jackson has demonstrated again and again that he’s equally skilled at romantic ballads and uptempo, fun-loving romps. Jimmy Buffett joins Jackson on this ode to a good time that was written by Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins. Released as the lead single from Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume II, the song spent eight consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and ended the year at No. 4 on the top country songs of 2003 list.
It also became a pop hit of Alan Jackson songs, peaking at No. 17 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100, and it was also Buffett’s first top 40 hit since the 70s. It won the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year, Buffett’s very first award in his lengthy career. A salute to enjoying an adult beverage regardless of the time of day, the song has become a favorite anthem that always invites a singalong in bars around the world.
19. “Precious Memories” (2013) Alan Jackson songs
Years before Jackson’s mother Ruth passed away, he recorded some of her favorite gospel songs as a gift to her. He didn’t plan on the record being released commercially, but when someone from his record label heard the project, they convinced him to share it with the world.
Thus, Precious Memories, an 11-song collection of beloved hymns became one of Jackson’s best-selling albums. He recorded a follow up, Precious Memories Volume II, in 2013. Jackson said, “Denise and I had made a list of 30 to 40 songs to do for that first album. We had so many that we didn’t get to, I thought we’d go in and do a few more just the same way – heartfelt and simple.” The second volume of Alan Jackson gospel songs featured such beloved classics as “Amazing Grace,” “Just As I Am,” “There is Power in the Blood” and “Precious Memories.”
20. “You’ll Always Be My Baby” (2021)
Alan and his wife Denise raised three beautiful daughters—Mattie, Ali and Dani—and this tender ballad written for his daughters’ weddings was included on his 2021 album Where Have You Gone and was added to the long list of Alan Jackson songs.
“Mattie asked if I’d write her a father/daughter dance song and I said I’d try to, so I wrote this little song and I told all three of them, ‘Look, you all three are going to have to use this song, I don’t want to have to write three of them,’” he said. But as it turns out, inspiration struck again and he wrote another wedding song titled “I Do,” also included on Where Have You Gone.
For more great country songs, keep reading!
Deborah Evans Price believes everyone has a story to tell and, as a journalist, she considers it a privilege to share those stories with the world. Deborah contributes to Billboard, CMA Close Up, Jesus Calling, First for Women, Woman’s World and Country Top 40 with Fitz, among other media outlets. Author of the CMA Awards Vault and Country Faith, Deborah is the 2013 winner of the Country Music Association’s Media Achievement Award and the 2022 recipient of the Cindy Walker Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Western Artists. Deborah lives on a hill outside Nashville with her husband, Gary, son Trey and cat Toby.