Darryl Worley is calling for Americans to come together amid the country’s division with a revamped version of his post-9/11 anthem, “Have You Forgotten?”
To mark the 20th anniversary of the 2003 mega-hit, the 58-year-old country singer teamed up with the original song’s co-writer, Wynn Varble, to pose a new question to the nation with the recently released “Have We Forgotten?”
While “Have You Forgotten?” was intended to serve as a reminder of the devastation wrought by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the follow-up features retooled lyrics that promote a message of unity.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Worley explained that singer-songwriter Noah Gordon first approached him with the idea to offer a modern-day take on divisions ripping the country apart.
“He said, ‘Man, I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning with this crazy idea,” Worley recalled. “I think that you and Wynn should rewrite a new lyric for the song ‘Have You Forgotten?’ because of all that’s going on in our nation today 20 years later.
“‘I really believe that it could be like the most righteous thing you could ever do with that song.’
“His idea was to call it ‘Have We Forgotten?’ and write it about our division and how just what, if anything, that anyone could do to bring about a little bit of unity might help in our nation.”
The “I Miss My Friend” singer explained he was initially against the idea since he didn’t want to tinker with his biggest hit.
“When he first mentioned it to me, I looked at him like he had a horn growing out his head because I didn’t want to take it,” the country artist remembered. “I said, ‘This is my crown jewel, man.’ I don’t want to give ‘Have You Forgotten?’ a black eye.
“But the more I thought about it, the more I dwelt on it. I got in touch with Wynn, and I sort of pitched it to him. And so we got together and did a lot of soul searching and talking about this.
“And we decided, ‘Hey, you know what? If it affects a thousand people, and they have maybe just a little bit of a new thought process about what could we do to be a part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.'”
WATCH: DARRYL WORLEY SHARES THE STORY BEHIND HIS 9/11 SONG “HAVE WE FORGOTTEN?”
Worley explained the two decided to give the new version a try.
“I said, ‘Hey, we write the song. If it’s terrible, we’ll throw it in the garbage,” he said. “And we never tell anybody that we even did this. So, that’s the worst that can happen.”
The Tennessee native and Varble began meeting for recording sessions, but Worley explained that they took a different approach this time around.
“The first song was very spontaneous,” Worley said. “It was just our gut feeling about things. And this time we just wanted to be sure that we said it right.
“It’s not that anything’s really changed about our core beliefs. It’s just that I think we could all have the ability to compromise a little bit. And it seems like the American people are caught up in this drama and this conflict and just always at odds about something.
“And, I mean, man, I just keep going back to 9/12, how unified we were. The most amazing thing that I’ve seen in all of my years. And I think it’s terrible it has to come to something like that for our people to show their American pride. You know, pull together as one.”
When “Have You Forgotten?” was released in March 2003, it rapidly began racing up the charts. Five weeks after its debut, the song claimed the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country chart, which it held for seven consecutive weeks.
The song also marked Worley’s biggest success in the mainstream market, reaching No. 22 on the U.S. Hot 100 chart.
WATCH: DARRYL WORLEY REFLECTS ON 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIT SONG, “HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN?”
In the lyrics to “Have You Forgotten?” Worley expressed his dismay Americans were beginning to forget about the many lives lost in the attacks and the terror they experienced that day.
In his interview with Fox News Digital, Worley recalled the horror he felt as the events of 9/11 were unfolding. He remembered his fear another attack was imminent and believed at the time the entire country was a target.
Later that September, Worley said, he traveled to entertain troops fighting in Afghanistan before the start of the Iraq War. During his trip, he remembered witnessing combat in an active war zone he said was the “most surreal” experience of his life.
“Our family is all military,” Worley told Fox News Digital. “So, it just was life-changing. And when I got back into the states, I told my manager, I said, ‘Man, I have got to do something.’
“It just seems that we should really focus on trying to do something for our military. All these men and women who make these unbelievable sacrifices. I mean, right on the heels of 9/11, it was also our first responders. They were on my mind. I mean, that trip to the war zone, it just started a whole new thought process.”
In the beginning of 2002 into 2003, Worley and Varble started having talks about writing a 9/11 song. The singer said they felt America had moved on from the tragic events too quickly.
“He was having some of the same emotion I was about how quickly we had moved away from that date,” Worley said. “How much it seemed like we’d already just gone back into this. … It’s weird, like a mental hibernation where we don’t even remember that that happened so quick.
“And, so, our idea was to write a song that would kind of bring the nation back to where it was but also to honor all of the people who’ve made incredible sacrifices and to say, ‘Do not forget about that.’ That’s what got us where we are today.
“That’s why we could throw a hand in the air and say we’re the most wonderful and powerful nation on earth. And, you know, gosh, man, 20 years later, it certainly has changed.”
Worley told Fox News Digital the pair originally didn’t have high hopes for “Have You Forgotten?”
“We went and did a little two track [recording] the day we wrote the song, and we laughed and said, ‘This will sit on the shelf at our publishing companies and never be heard by anyone,’” he called. “Little did we know.”
As he celebrates the song’s 20th anniversary, Worley reflected on how it changed his life.
“That song, ‘Have You Forgotten?’ has been such a milestone in my career,” he said. “It was just crazy the way it took off on its own. It kind of had a life of its own.
“And, to this day, it’s really a big part of what I do. Still puts food on the table, and it’s blessed me and my family. So very, very thankful for that, but also for the opportunity maybe to update that a little bit and play a role and prayerfully bring in people a little closer together as opposed to driving a wedge.”
Worley and Varble rewrote most of the song’s lyrics to encourage Americans to set aside their differences.
Lyrics in the original version pointed to deep disagreements in the country over how to respond to the 9/11 attacks. The song opens with, “I hear people saying we don’t need this war / I say there’s some things worth fighting for / What about our freedom and this piece of ground / We didn’t get to keep ’em by backing down.”
At the beginning of the new song, Worley sings, “I hear people saying our best days are gone / A people once united can’t even get along / A nation so divided, a country torn in two / It’s such a shame after all that we’ve been through.”
While the chorus of the original song asks Americans if they have already forgotten about the tragic events of 9/11, “Have We Forgotten?” urges them to remember a time when the country could “agree to disagree.”
In one line, Worley implores the country to unite as one, singing, “The whole wide world is watching while we go ’round and ’round / We need to come together, y’all, and we better do it now.”
Worley told Fox News Digital he is focused on promoting “Have We Forgotten?” so the song’s message is heard by as many people as possible.
“It’s really not a project that is about trying to gain fame or fortune or any of that,” he said. “We just want people to hear this. We want it to get a chance to get out there, you know, whether it be through country radio cycles and circuits or if it’s just digital, it doesn’t matter. We just want people to hear the message.”