NASHVILLE (AP) — Glen Campbell, who died in August, was honored at the Country Music Association Awards during a touching performance of “Wichita Lineman” by Little Big Town and Jimmy Webb, who wrote the song.
The Grammy-winning country foursome sang the tune, while Webb played piano, at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee.
Campbell also won an award: He posthumously won musical event of the year for “Funny How Time Slips Away” with Willie Nelson.
The CMA Awards, airing live on ABC, featured a number of emotional moments. Rascal Flatts and Dierks Bentley also paid homage to Troy Gentry, one-half of the popular country duo Montgomery Gentry, who died in a helicopter crash in September. Eddie Montgomery later joined in for the performance of “My Town,” as some audience members sang along with tears in their eyes.
Filmmaker Tyler Perry also brought a serious vibe to the show, paying tribute to Charley Pride and said telling the audience now is the time we have to all “find some common ground” before presenting the album of the year award to Chris Stapleton.
“I’m always humbled by getting these things,” said Stapleton, who thanked his wife Morgane, who is pregnant with twins and was in the audience.
“I want to thank my kids and my kids that are on the way,” he added.
Eric Church, Keith Urban, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum opened the CMA Awards with a memorable performance honoring the 58 people killed at a country music festival last month. The show kicked off with Church singing an emotional version of “Amazing Grace,” later joined by the other performers for “Hold My Hand.”
At the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, a gunman fired on the crowd from a hotel room while Jason Aldean was onstage. Nearly 500 people were injured.
Reba McEntire, Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Tim McGraw and others joined in to sing along, earning a large applause from the crowd.
“This has been a year marked my tragedy … Tonight we’re going to do what families do, come together, pray together, cry together and sing together, too,” co-host Carrie Underwood said.
“This show is dedicated to all those we lost,” fellow host Brad Paisley said.
Paisley and Underwood are celebrating their 10-year anniversary — as hosts of the CMAs. They joked at the top of the show about CMA sending restrictions to press about what to ask singers on the red carpet, saying they shouldn’t ask about politics or guns. They also riffed on politics, taking shots at both President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“Maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets,” they sang to the beat of Underwood’s massive hit, “Before He Cheats.”
Though Taylor Swift is releasing her second pop album this week, but she’s still being awarded for her contributions to country music.
The singer won song of the year — awarded to songwriters — on Wednesday for writing Little Big Town’s No. 1 hit, “Better Man.” Swift — who will release “reputation” on Friday — didn’t attend the show, but Little Big Town thanked her onstage.
“Thanks to Taylor Swift. She couldn’t be here tonight but Taylor, wherever you are, thank you for this beautiful song,” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild said onstage.
Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” which set a record for the most weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot country songs chart with 34, lost single of the year to Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
Nominees for the show’s top prize, entertainer of the year, include Bryan, Stapleton, Urban, Church and last year’s winner, Garth Brooks.
Bryan sang his hit “Light It Up” in front of bright, blue lights, while Brooks— rocking a new beard — won over the audience with his song, “Ask Me How I Know.”
The CMA Awards, a show where Justin Timberlake and Beyonce have performed, featured pop singer Pink this year. She sang her slow tune “Barbie,” backed by several musicians and singers.
Underwood said she’s most excited to see Alan Jackson, the artist she first saw live.
“I love it when legendary artists like him perform on the CMAs. I think in our world today and even in country music, it’s kind of like … ‘Who’s new? Who’s hot? Who can we get for the show?’ And it’s nice when you can have somebody that can go up there and show us how it’s all done,” she said.
But Paisley said Underwood will have the night’s brightest performance.
“I’m telling you if that’s not the No. 1 most-talked about thing the next day then I will be as wrong as I’ve ever been,” he said.
Brothers Osborne won vocal duo of the year and Jon Pardi who won new artist of the year.