Alan Jackson Graciously Accepts CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award: ‘Still Livin’ That Honky Tonk Dream, Y’all’

Alan Jackson; Photo Courtesy CMA
Alan Jackson; Photo Courtesy CMA
Alan Jackson; Photo Courtesy CMA

Three-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Alan Jackson was honored with the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 CMA Awards, following a tribute performance by Dierks Bentley, Carrie Underwood, Jon Pardi, Lainey Wilson.

Jackson expressed his gratitude to the performers before accepting the award. “Thank you so much. Appreciate y’all singing too. That was nice.”

Alan Jackson; Photo Courtesy CMA

In his acceptance speech, Jackson shared what attracted him to the genre.

“Country music’s been real good to me. And I fell in love with it when I was a young man. I really love the instruments, the steel guitars and the fiddles and things like that that gave it such a unique character to me and made it its own. And I love the lyrics and the songs and the artists and the melodies and the harmonies, and it’s just real American music to me.” He added, “One night watching television and this movie came on about the life of Hank Williams. And it just really inspired me.”

Jackson recalled his humble beginnings and thanked the team of people who have helped him throughout his career.

“I came to Nashville with nothing. Carrie’s talking about three chords and the truth. Mine was more like three chords and a prayer, but hung in there. The prayer got answered a little bit.” 

He continued, “I’ve just been such a fan of his music and I wanted to come to Nashville and try to carry it on, the kind that I loved. As my mama would say, I’m so blessed. And I have been so blessed and I’ve had a great team around me my whole career that have helped me and great songwriters and I’ve been so fortunate to have all that to help me get this far.” 

Alan Jackson; Photo Courtesy CMA
Alan Jackson; Photo Courtesy CMA

Jackson also shared his gratitude for his wife. “I can’t thank everybody that’s been in my life all these years, but I do have to say thanks to my wife Denise over there somewhere. And we started out as teenagers and she’s hung in there on the road, this rollercoaster ride with me for 40 something years now. And I’m probably not always the easiest person to love, but she’s hung in there and helped me through hard times and we shared great times. The good and the bad, the happy, the sad. We’ve survived a lot. And I just want to thank her cause she’s held me up all these years and she’s my best friend and she gave me a wonderful family over there.” 

He wrapped up his speech with a nod to his hit “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.”

“So thanks again to the CMA and all the wonderful fans I’ve had all over the world. Appreciate y’all. Radio and all the parts of country music that have been so good to me all these years. I’ve definitely lived the American dream.” He paused to ask Underwood for the award, then said, “And I’m still living that honky tonk dream, y’all.”

Previous recipients of the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award include Willie Nelson (2012), Kenny Rogers (2013), Johnny Cash (2015), Dolly Parton (2016), Kris Kristofferson (2019), Charley Pride (2020), and Loretta Lynn (2021).

The CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award is for an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in Country Music. The award recognizes an artist who has achieved both national and international prominence and stature through concert performances, humanitarian efforts, philanthropy, streaming numbers, record sales and public representation at the highest level. The artist receiving this award has positively impacted and contributed to the growth of the genre throughout a course of years that have proven to have an unprecedented historical impact on fans and industry alike. 

Jackson has released more than 20 albums and collections—including forays into gospel and bluegrass—nine of which went multi-Platinum with 2 million or more in sales. Those albums have led to one of Country Music’s most decorated careers with three CMA Entertainer of the Year Awards (1995, 2002, 2003); two Grammy Awards; and membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, the esteemed Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Jackson was given the first ASCAP Heritage Award (2014) by the performance rights organization, recognizing him as the most performed Country Music songwriter-artist of the last 100 years. Jackson has charted 35 No. 1 hits, sold nearly 60 million albums, and is among the genre’s most decorated and respected figures, with more than 150 awards.   

Luke Bryan, Peyton Manning; Photo Courtesy CMA
Luke Bryan, Peyton Manning; Photo Courtesy CMA

The 56th Annual CMA Awards featured performances from Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, Cody Johnson, and Carly Pearce.

The show opened with an all-star tribute to the late Loretta Lynn from Underwood, Reba McEntire and Lambert. 

Additionally, the show included star-studded collaborations from Kelsea Ballerini, Kelly Clarkson and Carly Pearce, HARDY and Lainey Wilson, Elle King with The Black Keys, Brothers featuring The War and Treaty, Thomas Rhett and Katy Perry, Chris Stapleton with Patty Loveless, Zac Brown Band, Jimmie Allen and Marcus King as well as Ashley McBryde with Pillbox Patti, Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack and John Osborne.

Mookie Betts, BRELAND, Jessica Chastain, Jordan Davis, Sarah Drew, Cole Hauser, Tyler Hubbard, Wynonna Judd, Lady A, Rex Linn, Little Big Town, Parker McCollum, Reba McEntire, Ben and Erin Napier, Jeannie Seely, Michael Shannon, and Lainey Wilson were on hand to present during the ceremony.

Co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, the 2022 CMA Awards broadcasted live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and aired on ABC (8:00-11:00 PM/ET). 

The CMA Awards will also be available for viewing on Hulu beginning Thursday, Nov. 10. 

The 56th Annual CMA Awards was a production of the Country Music Association. Robert Deaton served as the Executive Producer, Alan Carter as the Director, and Jon Macks as the Head Writer. 

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