Alan Jackson was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 56th Annual Country Music Association Awards.
The 64-year-old country music star received the award during the show at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. on Wednesday night.
“Country music has been real good to me and I fell in love with it when I was a young man,” Jackson said as he accepted the award.
He continued, “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.”
“It’s just a real American music to me.”
The two-time Grammy Award winner recalled how he became inspired to pursue a career in country music after watching a movie about the life of Hank Williams. Jackson said he came to Nashville “with nothing,” adding, “Carrie [Underwood] is talking about three chords and the truth and mine was like three chords and prayer. And God answered that prayer, a little bit.”
The “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” hitmaker went on to thank his wife Denise saying, “We started out as teenagers and she’s been on this roller coaster ride with me for 40 something years now.”
“I’m probably not always the easiest person to love, but she’s hung in there and helped me through hard times and we share great times. The good and the bad, the happy and the sad. We’ve survived a lot. And I just want to thank her because she’s held me up all these years and she’s my best friend.”
“I’ve definitely lived the American dream,” he said. “And I’m still living that honky tonk dream.”
Ahead of the award presentation, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi, and Lainey Wilson paid tribute to Jackson.
Underwood sang a few bars of his song “Remember When” before telling the audience that the first concert she ever attended was one of Jackson’s shows. “Seeing him perform helped inspire me to pursue my dreams,” she said.
“It’s been said that country music is three chords and the truth, and in every one of Alan Jackson’s songs, there is truth,” Underwood continued. “For his powerful voice speaks to us about hope and heartache, about fun and friendship, about tragedy and triumph, about life and a little about love.”
Bentley, Pardi and Wilson performed a medley of Jackson’s hit songs including “Chattahoochee”, “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” and “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” before Jackson took the stage to give a rousing performance of “Don’t Rock the Jukebox.”
Instituted in 2012, the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes artists who have gained the highest degree of recognition in country music and have positively impacted and contributed to the growth of the genre.
Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn have previously received the honor.
Jackson challenged the country music genre’s pop leanings in the ’90s while selling millions of albums and scoring dozens of hits. The Georgia-born star has been named CMA entertainer of the year three times and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Jackson revealed last year that he had Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a degenerative nerve condition that affects his motor skills. Last month, he announced that he was postponing the final two dates of his Last Call tour until 2023 after suffering a health setback.
On the red carpet, Bentley told Fox News Digital that he was thrilled to be honoring Jackson, adding that he was a huge fan of the artist.
“This is one of the top Hall of Fame members of all time in my mind, as a songwriter, as a singer, as a representative, an ambassador of country music across the world. He is country and he’s the definition of it. So I’m really honored to be part of this collaboration tonight.”
Country music singer Jessie James Decker told Fox News Digital that she and Jackson were both from Newnan, Ga. and went to the same high school. She recalled that she sang the national anthem when the town named a highway after Jackson.
“And then here we are honoring him tonight,” she said. “You know, it’s just wild how the world works. But such a special night to be a part of.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.