The song was written by Dan Tyler, Wood Newton, Michael Noble and C. Michael Spriggs. Wood Newton recalled to The Boot
: "At the time we wrote 'Twenty Years Ago,' it had been about 20 years since I had graduated from high school. The song was just the idea of going back to your hometown 20 years later and reminiscing, and all the memories and things that come up."
"The last verse of that song talks about Joe, who joined the Army in 1964: 'How could we know he'd never come back 20 years ago?' I think that line might have made some people hesitate about the song, because at that time, the country was trying to forget the war and get over it."