Story Behind the Song: John Paul White, ‘James’
"James," the ninth track on John Paul White's 2019 album The Hurting Kind, reflects on mortality and how even our heroes are fallible. The song takes its title and some personal details from the artist's own father, but White says that country icon Glen Campbell was the first inspiration behind the track. Read on to learn more, as told by White himself.
That one I wrote by myself, and I wrote it about Glen [Campbell], but as much as anything, I wrote it about the emotion I felt when I found out he had Alzheimer's, and I started watching his memory deteriorate. His playing ability continued to shine, and he could play a guitar solo that no one else could play -- but then he'd count off that same song right after, because he'd forgotten he'd just played it.
Not only did that really screw with my head -- like, how does your brain work that way?! -- but also, just knowing that he's one of the most talented musicians, singers, entertainers of our time. [I was thinking about] watching that slowly fade away from him, and him not being able to do anything about it. That created a lot of emotions in me.
My parents are getting older, and I'm at that age, and all of my friends are at that age, where we're getting older, and so mortality is always hanging around. All of those things went into writing the song. It's definitely inspired by Glen in that way, in that he's a hero that I didn't wanna see fade away.
But also, I mean, none of us want to fade away. That made me feel a little more human, watching that happen. If that can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. That's really where the song came from.