Surprise appearance from R&B diva Beyonce and a huge tribute to Dolly Parton, writes Fiona O’Brien
Garth Brooks took home the biggest prize of the special 50th anniversary CMA Awards last week, as Taylor Swift returned to present him with Entertainer of the Year.
The prestigious awards ceremony, which was hyped up this year in preparation for its big birthday took place at the famed Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. It was presented by Carrie Underwood, who herself walked away with Female Vocalist of the Year, and Brad Paisley.
A whole host of country stars celebrated the life and career of Dolly Parton as she took home the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Grace and Frankie star Lily Tomlin presented the award to her 9 to 5 co-star ‘for being an iconic artist in country music’.
She said. “Dolly is country music, pure and simple.” Jennifer Nettles and Pentatonix kicked off the musical tribute to Dolly, starting with an a cappella version of her hit Jolene. Reba McEntire came next, as she performed her rendition of 9 to 5, before Kacey Musgraves sang Here You Come Again. Underwood and Martina McBride then joined the stage with the other acts to perform a group rendition of I Will Always Love You which visibly moved Dolly.
“I would’ve cried, but I didn’t want to mess up my eyelashes,” Parton joked as she accepted her award. “This is an absolute high for me. They asked me to hurry it up, they said that they’re behind. But we’re talking about a lifetime here.”
But the show was almost stolen from the get-go with the first medley as Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Charley Pride, Alabama, Charlie Daniels, Reba, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs and Alan Jackson sang their greatest hits.
In the finale the group joined Randy Travis, who suffered a near-fatal stroke three years ago, for a singalong of Forever and Ever Amen, which Brooks later said moved him to tears. And then for the glitziest part of the proceedings, R&B diva Beyonce joined the Dixie Chicks on stage. Together they performed Daddy Lessons from the former Destiny’s Child front-woman’s hit album Lemonade, a song that earned some radio time on country music stations earlier this year and that the Dixie Chicks even covered on their summer tour.
During the six-minute performance Beyonce wore a white sheer sparkly gown to contrast with the all-black outfits donned by the Dixie Chicks, and it was made complete with a shout-out to Beyonce’s native Texas, which is also the home-place of lead Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines.
Underwood was also emotional as she picked up her award, her fourth Best Female Vocalist CMA, saying: “I’ve just become suddenly stupid. I just love you all, God bless you guys and thank you so much.”
Brooks was slightly cooler in his acceptance, stating: “Thank you for a wonderful run. We are so damn lucky to be part of this thing called country music.”
And country power-couple Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks teamed up for the second medley of classics, as they got through Johnny Cash and June Carter’s duet Jackson, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty’s Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man, George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s Golden Ring.
In between the duets, Brooks sang Roger Miller’s Chug-a-Lug and Keith Whitley’s Don’t Close Your Eyes and Yearwood delivered strong versions of Lynn Anderson’s hit Rose Garden and Crystal Gayle’s Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.