Why Alan Jackson Says He Now Has a Lot More ‘Freedom’ in Country Music

by Leanne Stahulak

Throughout his career, country legend Alan Jackson’s fought hard to keep traditional country music alive and well.

He made his mark in the country world throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, with 26 No. 1 hits and 14 No. 1 albums on the Billboards charts. Now that he’s put the work in and kept the traditional style going, Jackson finally feels like he can breathe a little.

“I feel a little more freedom now because I’m not trying to worry about getting on the radio and fitting into their limitations,” Alan Jackson told the TODAY show host Jenna Bush Hager. Now, he can explore whatever kind of country music he wants.

Alan Jackson also spoke to the kind of legacy he hopes to leave behind after he’s gone.

“I’ve always believed that the music is the most important thing. The songs. And I guess that’s what I’d like to (leave) if I had a legacy,” Jackson said.

Denise, the country star’s wife of 41 years, also spoke to the legacy he’ll leave. “He’ll have so many songs for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to hear and know who he was,” Denise said. “To know what was important to him. To get a little touch of our lives together through his music.”

Alan Jackson Battles Neurological Disease

In addition to talking about his music on the TODAY show, Alan Jackson also opened up about his degenerative disorder. He’s had Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a degenerative nerve condition, for 10 years. It’s recently affected his ability to walk and maintain his balance.

“I have this neuropathy and neurological disease,” Jackson said. “It’s genetic that I inherited from my daddy … There’s no cure for it, but it’s been affecting me for years. And it’s getting more and more obvious. I know I’m stumbling around on stage. And now I’m having a little trouble balancing, even in front of the microphone, and so I just feel very uncomfortable.”

CMT affects the peripheral nervous system in the body. The balance problems come from weakening muscles in the body’s extremities, like hands, feet, and legs. But Alan Jackson reassured fans that the disease is “not deadly.”

“It’s not going to kill me,” Jackson said. “But it’s related (to) muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease.”

Luckily, Alan Jackson has his wife Denise to help him get through the struggles of the disease and whatever else life throws their way.

“When I’m down, he lifts me up. When he’s down, I try to lift him up,” Denise said. “The happy side of that is we’ve had a fairy-tale life.”

Despite his recent struggles with the disease, Alan Jackson doesn’t plan on walking away from his music anytime soon.

“I never wanted to do the big retirement tour, like people do, then take a year off and then come back,” Jackson said. “I think that’s kinda cheesy. And I’m not saying I won’t be able to tour. I’ll try to do as much as I can.”