Cat Cohen's Anatomy of a Hit a Hit in 2002

Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) by Alan Jackson


In the wake of 9/11 this song was perhaps the most memorable and straightforward.

Song: Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
Artist: Alan Jackson
Album: Drive
Songwriter: Alan Jackson
Producer: Keith Stegall

Explores both the singer's and society's feelings after the suicide bombings on 9/11.

Expresses the deep personal and national soul searching that occurred after terrorist attacks of the twin towers and the Pentagon. A large list of different images from a lot of diverse personal perspectives, truly a sensitive reflection of what we all went through.

A gentle slow 16th groove built on simple guitar picking and a basic half-time drum feel

A simple anthem like melody in a 7-tone major scale. A modern day folk style hymn

Basic I IV V harmony with a few added vi chords for added depth. There is much use of the church like IV chord especially in cadences like at the end of the chorus

A loosely woven verse verse chorus structure. Not a typical commercial use of form but there is enough repetition and contrast to be easy to follow.

No real signature, just a simple guitar strum

Effective low key production that emphasizes the song and Jackson's heartfelt vocal, not the arrangement. Guitar is complemented nicely by steel guitar, mandolin and strings. Drums add strength on the choruses and lay back on the verses.

Simple unadorned outpouring of feelings from an everyman's perspective.

Predicted Longevity
This song will have a life as long as we as a nation stop to remember that infamous day. Of all the 9/11 songs, this one is the strongest one. It was nominated for the Grammy for Song of The Year for 2002 and in my book it should have won.

Album Cover: Drive

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