NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew his dad was always in his corner, but that didn’t make his father’s passing any easier. When Dale Earnhardt Sr. died back in February 2001 in a crash during the last lap of the Daytona 500, his son was devastated.
More than 20 years later, Earnhardt Jr. heard a song that really captured the emotions he felt in the wake of his father’s death. That song was “You Should Be Here” by country star Cole Swindell, a poignant letter to his own late dad about living life after his dad’s passing.
So Earnhardt Jr. did something he doesn’t usually do. He contacted the singer-songwriter and told him how much the song meant to him, he recounted on a recent episode of his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download. And Swindell, who recently joined Earnhardt Jr. on the podcast, was thrilled.
Check out the music video for “You Should Be Here” here:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Offered Advice About Father’s Passing
Both Swindell and his late father were big NASCAR fans, so hearing from Earnhardt Jr. really made his day.
“That was one of the coolest things of my career is Dale reaching out to me, and knowing that he’s reaching out because of his dad, which my dad was a fan of and I’m a fan of,” Swindell said.
But Earnhardt didn’t just want to compliment Swindell on his song. He also wanted to share what he’s learned through his own personal grieving process.
“His dad passed away quite early in his career, as he was hitting the big time,” Earnhardt Jr. said on the podcast of Swindell. “We have some similarities in loss and so forth.”
“I wanted to give you advice,” he added later, to Swindell. “I didn’t know how to, but I felt like if you needed some holes closed up in the search for some sort of closure, I was like, ‘Man I really could help him.’”
All These Years Later, Swindell’s Song Still Feels ‘Relevant’ to Earnhardt Jr.
They say time heals all wounds. But Dale Earnhardt Jr. still wishes his dad could be here to see the life he’s built for himself. And so, especially given all he’s accomplished since then, Swindell’s song still feels relevant to him two decades after his father’s passing.
“When I first heard [the song], you immediately connect the comparisons,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He lost his dad. I lost my dad. He wrote the song about that; it absolutely word for word fits anyone who’s ever lost their dad, that song just plugs right into all the emotions. I think even after all these years – you keep doing things in life, you keep having these milestones and these things happen and these people you meet that come into your life – and you want your dad to know ’em, meet ’em, see ’em, experience it.”
Swindell can certainly relate. His dad, William Keith Swindell, died in 2013 at age 65. The news came as a shock to Swindell, whose career was just taking off at that point. His father had been his biggest booster, teaching him about music without pushing him to pursue it.
“I know he’s proud,” Swindell said on The Marty Smith Podcast this summer. “And I get to do it and help other people. He would be more proud about that than he would the music.”
Watch that podcast here: