As this year's Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Dolly Parton's long-standing and groundbreaking career was prominently showcased by a slew of female vocalists at the 50th CMA Awards tonight (Nov. 2). Reba McEntire, Kacey Musgraves, Jennifer Nettles, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride took a spin at various Parton classics, including "9 to 5" and "Jolene," the latter featured Nettles and a cappella pop group Pentatonix.
Emmy winner and long-time friend Lily Tomlin gave an impassioned speech to introduce the medley. "I know why tonight she's receiving the Wille Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award...for being an iconic artist in country music. Dolly is country music, pure and simple, which is also the title of her newest album," Tomlin said. "Dolly helped build Nashville. I could go on and on. Dolly really is a force of nature and one of the greatest artists in the history of country music."
Nettles and Pentatonix then took the stage with a punchy, a cappella reading of "Jolene." As the dust settled from the vocal firepower, McEntire (after a momentary loss of words) launched into "9 to 5," with a thoughtful segue into Musgraves moment with an honest, straightforward version of "Here You Come Again." Then, the grand finale of the final performance of the night came with McBride, Nettles, McEntire, Musgraves and Underwood teaming up for, arguably, Parton's most recognizable hit, "I Will Always Love You"--the performance towered in the arena as big as Parton's hair and left the viewers and audience breathless.
"I just want to thank all my fans and everybody for allowing me to see my little girl dreams come true," Parton said upon taking the stage. "I had a big speech...but they won't let me give it. So, thank you so much for this wonderful award!"
Undeniably, the 50th CMA Awards turned into a star-studded affair, honoring the past as much as the present. Other notable performances included Dwight Yoakam with Chris Stapleton, Beyonce with Dixie Chicks [video here], Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Eric Church, and the impressive opening performance featuring Vince Gill, Jackson, Underwood, Brad Paisley, Roy Clark, Alabama, Yoakam, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, Reba, Charley Pride and Charlie Daniels [watch here on AXS.com].
Check out the complete list of winners right here.
Stay tuned to AXS.com for all your 50th CMA Awards coverage.
Watch the Parton tribute below: