Reba McEntire was honored at the CMT Artists of the Year ceremony with the Artist of a Lifetime trophy, presented to her by her longtime friend, Vince Gill. McEntire, who was the final artist to accept her trophy, used part of her time on stage to praise Thomas Rhett for being bold enough to pray for Kane Brown, after Brown's drummer, Kenny Dixon, unexpectedly passed away in a car crash last week.
"Thomas Rhett, God bless you for praying in front [of us]," McEntire said from stage. "You’re special. That took guts. But as you said, that might not be aired on this but He knows. It better be aired! It better make the cut. Because that’s what we need in our lives, is a little more God. We’ve got to give this world back to God.
"We’ve got to give Him the focus and the attention that He needs," she continued. "I love this business. I love country music. It’s fun. I love the competition and I love y’all. Thank you very much for this. I love my family, my friends. You all are super. Thank you all so much!”
McEntire began her speech by thanking all the people who have helped her career in some way over the last four decades.
“This has been a very inspiration, emotional night,” McEntire acknowledged. “I want to thank everybody in this room. I know most of you, and you’ve had a lot to do with my career. I appreciate the lessons, the patience – not everybody was patient with me, but the ones who were, I appreciate that very much.”
“I appreciate the people I got to open the show for," she continued. "And the ones that guided and taught. I would get through with my show and run back and sign autographs, and then I’d sit there and watch their shows because I was learning all the time.”
Gill gave a heart-warming tribute to McEntire, before she took the stage.
“I have shared a lot of life with Reba as a session guitar player early in my youth, [and] as a session singer on many of her records," Gill said. "As a duet partner – I’m still pissed about ‘The Heart Won’t Lie’ because I had to do the video as a Marine and they said I was the fattest Marine in history," he said with a laugh.
“We’ve done everything together," he continued. "We’ve been duet partners. We’ve been touring partners. We’ve hosted awards shows together. The most important thing you are is my friend, out of all of that. So that’s why I’m here tonight, because my friend is deserving of this. As friends, we’ve gone through divorces together. We’ve gone through death of the members of our family. We’ve gone through the death of members of our road family. We shared it all, and when the chips were down, that was the friend right there that I could always count on.”
Lady Antebellum sang "Is There Life Out There" in McEntire's honor, while Sam Hunt closed out the show with her classic hit, "Fancy."
Photo Credit: Getty / Rich Fury