John Anderson pushed himself to complete his vocals for Years, telling producer Dan Auerbach, “Let’s get everything because I might not wake up.” It’s not an overstatement. In a risky procedure a few months earlier, when anesthesia was used, Anderson was told by doctors that he’d died on the operating room table. His wife told him that it had happened three times. That knowledge weighed heavily on the legendary country singer while writing and recording Years because he knew that his next appointment – just a few days after the sessions – would require the same anesthesia.
Remarkably, Anderson kept his health crisis a secret from his touring band and the music industry, and even now he prefers not to get into all of the details. However, his recovery has become his testimony.
“There’s a few things that I came out of this whole deal better with,” Anderson says. “Part of it is my love for music and part of it is my appreciation for my family. But the biggest part is knowing that I might die here any minute, for who knows what reason, but I know that the good Lord already came down and touched me. There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
During his health scare, he’d lost his sense of pitch and even his ability to recognize his own songs on the radio. At one point, his hearing left him with what he calls “terrible noise,” forcing him to come off the road for the first time in 40 years.
After charting modestly in the late ’70s, Anderson scored No. 1 hits in the ’80s with “Wild and Blue,” “Swingin’,” and “Black Sheep.” After a brief career lull, he staged a major comeback in 1992 as “Straight Tequila Night” became his first No. 1 single in nine years. That momentum carried him into the 2000s, giving him 60 charting country singles in four consecutive decades.
Listening to Anderson’s vocals on Years, it would be impossible to guess that anything was amiss. Delivered in that distinctive, rich baritone, “Celebrate” provides a perspective of gratitude while “Slow Down,” “All We’re Really Looking For” and “You’re Nearly Nothin'” are some of the most eloquent love songs he’s ever recorded. Meanwhile, “I’m Still Hangin’ On” conveys the realities of a soldier living with PTSD, while “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone” – a breezy duet with good friend Blake Shelton – captures the joy of just getting away from it all. The rambling vibe of “Wild and Free” and irresistible rhythm of “What’s a Man Got to Do” feel like they’ve been in Anderson’s repertoire all along. Beyond Years, the sessions also yielded a rewarding new friendship between the artist and producer.
Blue Gate Performing Arts Center
760 S Van Buren St
Shipshewana, IN 46565