Country Chatter

Alan Jackson Shares Story Behind “Where Were You”

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Just months after the attacks on 9/11, Alan Jackson debuted a song that came to him in the middle of the night and has become one of the most iconic songs about that fateful day. He performed the ballad at the CMA Awards on November 7, 2001 and was amazed how quickly it resonated with everyone. Years later he talked about the song and how it came about. (Watch the performance below)

“Typically, when we kick that song off and the crowd realizes what it is, people hold up their lighters and things,” Jackson said in an interview. “And I’ve seen people crying in the crowds, and they cheer on lines that mean something, like the line about the heroes just doing what they do — they really like that. I don’t know. There’s a lot of emotion going on in the room during that song, and it always makes me feel good that it has affected people that way.”

Jackson shared that he woke up one morning at 4am with the melody and an opening line that would become “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

“I got up and scribbled it down and put the melody down so I wouldn’t forget it, and then the next day I started piecing all those verses together that were the thoughts I’d had or visuals I’d had,” he explains. “It was a Sunday — I remember because, when I started writing it, my wife and girls had gone off to Sunday school, and I finished it that day. Like I said, that song was just a gift. I’ve never felt I could take credit for writing it. Looking back, I guess I just didn’t want to forget how I felt on that day and how I knew other people felt.”

“When I first wrote it, I didn’t think I would record it,” Jackson stated in a recent interview, “and then we didn’t think we would want to release it. At first, I didn’t think I would ever write a song about the event because I just didn’t feel right about it, and then this came out of nowhere.”

The song was the lead single from his tenth studio album, Drive (2002), and went on to win multiple awards at the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards, including Song of the Year, and also earned Jackson his first Grammy Award for Best Country Song.

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