|Released February 6, 1995|
Label Arista Nashville 12792
|B-side "You Can't Give Up on Love"|
Format Promo-only CD single 7" 45 RPM
Length 4:32 (album version) 3:58 (radio edit)
"Song for the Life" is the title of a country music song written by American singer Rodney Crowell. Crowell first recorded the song in 1978 on his debut album Ain't Living Long Like This, and since then, the song has been covered by several other artists. One version, recorded by Alan Jackson, was released as a single in 1995, and was a Top Ten country hit for him that year.
The first version of "Song for the Life" was recorded by The Seldom Scene on their 1976 album The New Seldom Scene Album, with John Starling singing the lead. Singer/songwriter Jonathan Edwards also recorded the song on his 1976 release "Rockin Chair" produced by Brian Ahern. The following year Rodney Crowell put it on his 1977 debut album Ain't Living Long Like This, with backing vocals from Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Nicolette Larson. Jerry Jeff Walker covered the song on his 1977 album Man Must Carry On, as did Johnny Cash on his 1978 album Gone Girl, John Denver on his 1980 album Autograph, Waylon Jennings on his 1982 album Black on Black, Kathy Mattea on her 1986 album Walk the Way the Wind Blows. Mattea's version of the song was the b-side to her 1987 single "You're the Power". Alison Krauss recorded the song on her debut album with Union Station in 1987, "Too Late to Cry" at the age of 16. A version was also recorded by The Waterboys for their album Room to Roam in 1990, Although it wasn't released until 2008 on the remastered edition of the same album. However, the Waterboys version of the song did appear on the BBC television 1991 series "Bringing it all Back Home - the influence of Irish Music" and was released on the supporting CD and DVD of the series.
Alan Jackson recorded it for his 1994 album Who I Am. Jackson was the only artist to release his rendition as a single, doing so in early 1995 and reaching Top Ten on the country charts with it.
Jackson's rendition of the song is mainly backed by steel-string acoustic guitar and piano, with electric guitar and pedal steel guitar solos preceding the final chorus. His rendition was given favorable reviews: Mario Tarradell of the Dallas Morning News called it "the quintessential Alan Jackson ballad", and Thom Jurek of Allmusic said, "in a version that rivals Crowell's own, Jackson's balladry in three-forths [sic] time is heartbreakingly beautiful." Ron Young of the San Antonio Express-News said that although it "pales next to Jerry Jeff Walker's, it's a good attempt and an excellent choice."
Jackson's rendition debuted at number 73 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts dated for February 11, 1995. It peaked at number 6 on the week of May 6.