Dolly Parton Serenaded by Country's Divas for Lifetime Achievement Award

Dolly Parton Serenaded by Country's Divas for Lifetime Achievement Award

Wendy Geller
Senior Editor
November 3, 2016

The Country Music Association’s annual awards show hit all highs in terms of 2016, the year it celebrated its 50th anniversary of celebrating the best of the genre’s music. Given this, it would take a very special artist to receive the night’s deepest-dive honor, the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, designed to mark an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in country music.

Luckily, the CMAs had an easy choice: the undeniably iconic Dolly Parton, who holds dozens of awards in not only the country genre, but also spans music and film in general in terms of her powerhouse career.

Actress Lily Tomlin — who was Parton’s costar in the 1980 comedy 9 to 5 — gave a heartfelt introduction to the tribute, which started out with a shimmering, modern version of Parton’s timeless “Jolene” delivered by Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and a cappella phenoms Pentatonix.

Following this, Reba McEntire strode onstage for the opening strains of “9 to 5,” only to miss her cue for the first verse and laughingly apologize. The veteran CMAs performer quickly recovered, noting that catching sight of the legendary Parton in the audience was the reason for her slip.

Critics’ darling Kacey Musgraves had no such issues, vocally channeling Parton’s sweet and flawless ‘70s persona in “Here You Come Again.” Underwood followed with 14-time Grammy nominee Martina McBride to provide another flawless tribute, blending melodic and harmonic vocal parts on what is likely Parton’s most iconic hit, 1974’s “I Will Always Love You.”

Nettles and Musgraves joined Underwood and McBride to finish out the song, a four-part powerhouse collaboration which visibly delighted Parton in the audience.

Following the performance, Parton herself took the stage to take the award — and in typical Parton style, noted that she was moved to cry, but didn’t want to mess up her makeup. She also make a joke about having such a “high” honor named after Willie Nelson.

Parton has won a total of nine CMA Awards, including an Entertainer of the Year recognition in 1978. The 50th annual CMA Awards were held 11/2 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

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