Presented by CMT and Paramount, country music’s biggest and brightest stars showed up at the historic Grand Ole Opry House to pay tribute to the late Loretta Lynn, one of music’s most pioneering female figures country.
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Hosted by Jenna Bush Hager, the night of remembrance opened with Wynonna Judd singing “How Great Thou Art” alongside the Gaither Vocal Band and Larry Strickland. Judd’s deep voice kicked off the star-studded evening with an emotional punch straight to the heart. It felt like Judd, who also recently lost her mother, was meant to be there, sharing her sense of empathy and understanding with Lynn’s family and friends in the room.
Keith Urban took to the stage with nothing but a banjo. Before performing a clean, contemporary take on Lynn’s infamous hit, “You’re Lookin’ At Country,” he shared some personal anecdotes like how he was his date at the 2005 CMT Music Awards and he also played a voicemail that she once asked him to bring her butt to her birthday party.
Darius Rucker performed Lynn’s controversial yet honest classic, “Fist City,” and Tanya Tucker sang “Blue Kentucky Girl” while wearing a hot pink ruffled blouse. The iconic George Strait marched fervently on stage to perform his number one “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”.
Throughout the night, Lynn’s accomplishments were highlighted, such as the number of number ones she has under her belt and the number of platinum records she received, but the most notable message sparked by all the artists in attendance was just how good a person Lynn was. Faith Hill and Martina McBride explained that Lynn always lets them know she’s there for them, especially as women in a male-dominated landscape. In a video message, Dolly Parton shared, “She was the best friend anyone could have.” And Alan Jackson, before singing “Where Her Heart Has Always Been”, a track he wrote for his mother, noted that Lynn reminded him of his mother, “Both of them were outgoing, sweet and genuine and would tell you exactly what they had in mind.”
Getty Images for CMT
Other posts released via video message included a note from superstar Taylor Swift who said Lynn, “paved the way for all songwriters trying to be truthful and honest today.” Sissy Spacek, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her work as Lynn in the 1980 film, coal miner’s daughter, noted how Lynn changed her career trajectory. Reba McEntire shared, “I’ve always loved Loretta, and always will.”
A surprise performance came when Jack White performed the title track from Lynn’s 42nd studio album Rose Van Lear – the album was produced by Jack White, who was a longtime Lynn fan before becoming a friend and collaborator. The record was nominated for five Grammy Awards in 2005 and won two, including Best Country Album.
Many artists who have taken the stage had personal stories and experiences with Lynn to share, however Brandi Carlile went in a different direction. Before singing “She’s Got You,” Brandi Carlile shared that “She was my hero’s hero,” before greeting artists like Wynonna Judd and Tanya Tucker in the audience. Carlile’s performance was also a standout of the night, her vibrato-infused vocals flew through the opry as she hit low and high notes with ease. She was one of the few to receive a standing ovation.
One of Lynn’s granddaughters, Emmy Russell, performed the angelic tune “Lay Me Down” with Willie Nelson’s grandson Lukas Nelson. The song was originally recorded by Lynn and Willie Nelson, creating a nostalgic and bittersweet moment. Russell shared that it was her first time performing since her grandmother fell ill a few years ago.
Lynn’s daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, and granddaughter Tayla Lynn arrived on stage to a huge standing ovation and chorus of applause. Tayla Lynn recalled how growing up her grandmother shared her faith and remarked that it was one of the best gifts she left behind. Patsy Lynn Russell took the time to honor her mum’s accomplishments saying, “I’m so proud of what my mum has accomplished – how many artists, how many people around the world she touched.” She later added, “She laid such a legacy that she will never leave us. She will always be there.”
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