Alan Jackson's introspective love song "Remember When" remains one of the singer's most tender and truthful nods to the country music traditions he proudly upholds.
Jackson wrote the autobiographical song about the ups and downs of relationships as a tribute to his bride Denise. The teenage sweethearts met at Dairy Queen in their hometown of Newnan, Georgia and married in 1979. She's supported Alan every step of the way since then, from early career struggles to his Country Music Hall of Fame induction.
Produced by Keith Stegall, the song first appeared on 2002's Greatest Hits Vol. II. The brand-new song was the second single off the compilation album. It was one of two new songs, with the other being Jimmy Buffett duet, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere."
An official music video directed by Trey Fanjoy helped propel it to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It was the 22nd of Jackson's 25 career number one hits.
For those of us lucky enough to have a significant other, loving family or trusty mentor, memories of the past are more about people than popular songs and trends. The truths in a song like "Remember When" may remind a grandparent of when their own children were small. Or maybe nostalgia points back farther to when Grandma and Grandpa first met at a local cotton mill. Through this scope, Jackson's song captures the best kind of memories of decades past, presenting parts of his life story as something that's been lived by many of his fellow Southerners.
A Legacy Artists' Lasting Hit
By the time "Remember When" topped the charts in 2003, country music had changed drastically from Jackson's '90s heyday. Suddenly, hits were hard to come by for traditional-minded artists, unless a song really spoke to the public. Fortunately for Jackson, his early-aughts output included a couple of songs that strummed the heartstrings of old-school and mainstream fans.
First came "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," a reaction to the 9/11 tragedy that put human sorrow ahead of politics. Jackson could've hung up his hat for good after the 2001 CMAs and fully deserved his Country Music Hall of Fame induction based off that night, paired with his prior hits.
Nationwide catharsis and a song about long-term personal relationships hardly compare thematically, but the same honesty and integrity that made Jackson's voice the right one to lament one of America's greatest tragedies helped make "Remember When" a relatable and still relevant No. 1 hit.
Keeping It Country
Jackson was a much a traditionalist in his heyday as a Chris Stapleton or Margo Price are today. Fame was no compromise, forcing a Newnan country boy to go uptown. Instead, Jackson helped Clint Black and other famous peers bring back the great storytelling that once defined country music to the masses. Whether he sang carefree songs about the "Summertime Blues" or poured his heart and personal life into memorable lyrics, Jackson always served up something undeniably country.
With all of that said, take in these lyrics and appreciate the candidness of perhaps the most moving Alan Jackson song.
"Remember When" Lyrics
Remember when I was young and so were you
And time stood still and love was all we knew
You were the first, so was I
We made love and then you cried
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 old ones died and new were born
And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged
We came together, fell apart
And broke each other's hearts
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 thirty seemed so old
Now lookin' back, it's just a steppin' stone
To where we are, where we've been
Said we'd do it all again
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
This story previously ran on July 10, 2020.