Alan Jackson received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 56th Annual Country Music Association Awards.
The 64-year-old country music star accepted the award Wednesday night during the show at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Country music was really good for me and I fell in love with it when I was a young man,” Jackson said upon accepting the award.
He continued, “I really love the instruments, the steel guitars and the fiddles and things like that that gave me such a unique character and made it his own. And I love the lyrics and the songs and the artists and the melodies and the harmonies.”
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“To me, this is just real American music.”
The two-time Grammy winner recalled how he was inspired to pursue a career in country music after seeing a film about the life of Hank Williams. Jackson said he came to Nashville “with nothing,” adding, “Carrie [Underwood] talks about three chords and the truth and mine was like three chords and prayer. And God answered that prayer a little bit.”
The “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” hitmaker also thanked his wife Denise, saying, “We started when we were teenagers and she’s been on this roller coaster ride with me for about 40 years now.”
“I may not always be the easiest person to love, but she persevered and got me through tough times and we share great times. The good and the bad, the happy and the sad. We survived a lot. And I just want to thank her for stopping me all these years and for being my best friend.”
“I’ve definitely been living the American Dream,” he said. “And I’m still living that honky-tonk dream.”
Before the awards ceremony, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi and Lainey Wilson paid tribute to Jackson.
Underwood sang a few bars of his song “Remember When” before telling the audience that the first concert she ever attended was one of Jackson’s shows. “Seeing him perform inspired me to pursue my dreams,” she said.
“They say country music is three chords and the truth, and there’s truth in every Alan Jackson song,” Underwood continued. “For his powerful voice speaks to us of hope and sorrow, of fun and friendship, of tragedy and triumph, of life and a little bit of love.”
Bentley, Pardi and Wilson performed a medley of Jackson’s hits including “Chattahoochee,” “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” and “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” before Jackson took the stage for a rousing rendition of “Don’t Rock.” the jukebox.”
Established in 2012, the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes artists who have achieved the highest level of recognition in country music and have positively influenced and contributed to the growth of the genre.
Previously honored honors were Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn.
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Jackson challenged the pop slant of the country music genre in the ’90s while selling millions of albums and scoring dozens of hits. The Georgia-born star has been named CMA Entertainer of the Year three times and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2017 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Jackson announced last year that he has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a degenerative nerve disease that affects his motor skills. Last month he announced he was rescheduling the final two dates of his Last Call tour to 2023 following a health setback.
On the red carpet, Bentley told Fox News Digital that he was thrilled to honor Jackson, adding that he was a big fan of the artist.
“This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Hall of Famers of all time, as a songwriter, as a singer, as a representative, as an ambassador for country music around the world. He’s country and he’s the definition of it. So I’m really honored to be a part of this collaboration tonight.”
Country singer Jessie James Decker told Fox News Digital that she and Jackson were both from Newnan, Georgia and attended the same high school. She recalled singing the national anthem when the city named a freeway after Jackson.
“And then we honor him here tonight,” she said. “You know, it’s just wild how the world works. But such a special night to be a part of.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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