Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Alan Jackson, 2002

What occurred on the September day that Jackson sings about?

What feelings in response to 9/11 does Jackson describe?

Have you talked to friends or family members about their experience of that day? Where were they when learned about it?

How did they react?

How did Jackson respond to 9/11? Where does he find comfort?

"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" performed by Alan Jackson on Drive. Arista Nashville, © 2002. Available on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify.

For more information about Alan Jackson, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource resource for lyrics:

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/alanjackson/ wherewereyouwhentheworldstoppedturning.html

Alan Jackson was born in Newnan, Georgia, in 1958. Initially he was primarily interested in gospel music, which he sang in church. But after hearing the country songs of Gene Watson, John Anderson, and Hank Williams, Jr., he began playing with local country bands and after he graduated from high school he started his own group. At twenty-five he penned his first song, and two years later he and his wife moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he launched his career with the assistance of country star Glen Campbell.

Jackson is known for staying true to traditional country music styles while other country artists employ more mainstream pop to cater to audiences outside the realm of country music. According to the website of his label, Universal Music Group, his songs are composed for the working class: "Whether someone is plowing a Kansas field or toiling away in a factory in an urban metropolis, Jackson's songs have chronicled the hopes, dreams and values of everyday people" ("Alan Jackson: Bio").

Drive album cover
Cover for Alan Jackson's Drive.

"Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" is Jackson's musical reflection on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He debuted the song at the 2001 Country Music Association Awards and claimed he was inspired to compose it in the middle of the night shortly before the performance. The song was often played on non-country radio stations because of its apolitical nature. It encouraged reflection and unification, commenting more on the personal or individual reactions to 9/11 rather than the events themselves. It also avoided expressing an opinion about military responses to 9/11, differing sharply from Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue."

Although the song is not overtly political, it does reference President George W. Bush by mentioning what he was doing during the attacks: "Teaching a class full of innocent children." Moreover, as Andrew Boulton points out, the strong Christian element "echoes the ways in which President Bush sought to make sense of, and to Christianize, the mourning process" (382). This is especially evident in the line "faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us / And the greatest is love," which paraphrases 1 Corinthians 13.13.

In the song Jackson describes himself as a "writer of simple songs." In keeping with this, the melody of "Where Were You" is simple and the accompaniment is sparse. It features violin and mandolin, which are traditional country instruments.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes



Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at voices.pitt.edu/Permissions.html.