It happened at the taping for the CMT Giants: Alan Jackson TV special honoring the “Good Time” singer-songwriter, renowned for blending the traditional honky-tonk sound with country-pop. The program, filmed Oct. 30, 2008, premiered on the country music channel two months later.
Seven years removed from the September 11 attacks at the time, Strait took the stage that evening to regale the audience at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium with Jackson’s reverent Drive single released in the aftermath of that tragic day. Even now, the tribute stands as a testament to the power of the song.
Asked about the moving number a decade after he wrote it, Jackson recalled being as much a recipient of the track as he was its author. The circumstances behind the tune — which first emerged on country radio in November 2001— certainly stood out in his mind as a serendipitous occurrence.
“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 … thoughts I’d had,” Jackson remembered in 2011. “Looking back, I guess I just didn’t want to forget how I felt on that day and how I knew other people felt.”
The tune went on to win multiple ACM and CMA Awards, not to mention capturing the composer’s first Grammy for Best Country Song. But on that night in 2008, it stood as Strait’s salute to Jackson’s songwriting prowess.
Other performers on the show included Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Martina McBride. Each sang some of Jackson’s best-known songs, as CMT reported at the time. George Jones, Hank Williams Jr. and Denise Jackson, Alan’s wife, also made appearances.
Country Stars Remember 9/11: