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"Jackson" is a song written in 1963 by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber and first recorded by Wheeler. It is best known from two 1967 releases: a pop hit single by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood and a country hit single by Johnny Cash and June Carter, which has become more appreciated by non-country audiences in recent years as a result of Cash's continued popularity and its use in the 2011 film The Help. The song is about a married couple who find (according to the lyrics) that the "fire" has gone out of their relationship. The song relates the desire of both partners to travel to Jackson where they each expect to be welcomed as someone far better suited to the city's lively night life than the other is.
Actress Gaby Rodgers is cited as co-author of "Jackson", because Leiber used his then-wife's name as a pseudonym in writing the song with Wheeler. First recorded in 1963 by Wheeler, he explains the evolution of the song, and Leiber's contribution:
'Jackson' came to me when I read the script for Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (I was too broke to see the play on Broadway)...When I played it for Jerry [Leiber], he said 'Your first verses suck,' or words to that effect. 'Throw them away and start the song with your last verse, "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout."' When I protested to Jerry that I couldn't start the song with the climax, he said, 'Oh, yes you can.' So I rewrote the song and thanks to Jerry's editing and help, it worked. I recorded the song on my first Kapp Records album, with Joan Sommer, an old friend from Berea, Kentucky, singing the woman's part. Johnny Cash learned the song from that album, A New Bag of Songs, produced by Jerry and Mike.
There has been much speculation regarding which Jackson the song is about; but, according to Wheeler, "Actually, I didn’t have a specific Jackson in mind. I just liked the sharp consonant sound, as opposed to soft-sounding words like Nashville."
Johnny Cash and June Carter released a version in February 1967, reaching #2 on the US Country charts and winning a Grammy Award in 1968 for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group. This version was reprised by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, performing as Johnny Cash and June Carter, in the 2005 film, Walk the Line, and also appears on the soundtrack of 2011 film The Help.
Finnish singers Carola Standertskjöld and Lasse Mårtenson recorded the song in 1967 as a duet, under the title of Mä lähden Stadiin (‘I’m goin’ to town (i.e. to Helsinki)’). They performed it on the Finnish television in a program called Jatkoaika (‘extra time’), also in 1967.