Tracy Lawrence, one of my favorite country artists, has a new song out "If I Don't Make It Back." It sends chills down my spine every time I hear it and I was lucky enough to hear Tracy himself sing it on January 27th on the Philadelphia stop of the George Strait tour and I recently discovered this article telling the story behind the song.
THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG by Brett Jones, Co-Writer, “If I Don’t Make It Back” The day Bobby Pinson and I wrote this song, we set out to create a story about those affected by the death of someone close. I shared a personal story that ultimately became the shadow of influence over writing this song. While my personal story has to do with the Vietnam War, this song is meant to comfort anyone who’s ever lost someone close under any circumstance. Here’s the story I shared with Bobby the day we wrote “If I Don’t Make It Back”— “My oldest brother, Lt. James Grady Jones, was killed in Vietnam November 12, 1966. He was a pilot and was killed in a collision flying over North Vietnam. Jimmy was a Navy fighter jet pilot. They were doing a night raid, flying A4 Skyhawks off the deck of the U.S.S. FDR in the Gulf of Tonkin. His jet was shot up by the NVA Flak (North Vietnamese) during a combat mission. He lost communication with his home aircraft carrier, drifted upward, and collided with another aircraft. He was 26 years old. ‘Jimmy’ left behind his wife Emmy, his three-year old daughter Janie, his one-year old son Scottie, our parents, and five siblings. My brother’s son, Scottie, recently committed suicide. We consider him a casualty of the Vietnam War as well. Even though this year marks forty years since my brother’s death, rarely a day goes by that we don’t think of him. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t think of my nephew. We’re a close family.”
Bobby and I wanted to capture part of Jimmy’s spirit and show his personality from the perspective of his friends and family. He was quite the prankster. Bobby came up with the line “sit on the visitor’s side and cheer for the home team” and the song just kept flowing from there. We knew there was something special about this song and we knew it would take a certain kind of artist to deliver the emotion this song held. All of the elements fell into place. Tracy Lawrence’s vocal on it is that rare magic that happens once in a while. The song even brings a tear to my eye.