All-Star Tribute Concert Will Air May 27 on CBS
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In addition, previous winners of the award were honored in song as well. Keith Urban sang a medley of Marty Robbins' hits to honor his achievements in the 1960s. Faith Hill offered "You Ain't Woman Enough" in tribute to Loretta Lynn, who won the award in the 1970s. Montgomery Gentry tackled "Mountain Music" in recognition of Alabama, the recipients for the 1980s, while Martina McBride delivered "The Dance" to honor Brooks.
Backstage, Brooks said Strait deserves to win the award every decade, noting, "People just talk about him standing there and singing, and if you're a George Strait fan, it's a wonderful thing to be there." He also recalled the first time he got to see Strait, about 20 years ago, when Brooks was backstage at the Grand Ole Opry and Strait was performing for attendees at the Country Radio Seminar. "Here I am, 20 years later, staring at him tonight," Brooks said. "I love him and I hate him because he looks so good. He looks the same as he did 30 years ago."
Brooks also responded to a reporter's question about making a George Strait tribute album. "I'd like to," Brooks said, "but the last thing I ever want to do is to offend anybody in Strait's camp."
During the telecast, Brooks recalled how the course of his life was immediately altered when he heard Strait's debut single, "Unwound." He also noted that he remembers the exact spot in the road where he was driving when the song came on the radio.
However, Toby Keith chose to cover "Unwound" at the taping. Other selections included "Adelida" (Sugarland), "Marina Del Ray" (Tim McGraw), "Run" (Taylor Swift), "It Ain't Cool to Be Crazy About You" (Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton), "You Look So Good in Love" (Jamie Foxx), "All My Ex's Live in Texas" (Jack Ingram), "The Cowboy Rides Away" (Brooks & Dunn), "Blue Clear Sky" (Dierks Bentley), "The Fireman" (Alan Jackson), "Give It Away" (Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack), "Amarillo by Morning" (John Rich) and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" (LeAnn Rimes). Womack also debuted a new song, "Just Stand There and Sing."
After watching the whole show with his family, Strait capped the night by graciously thanking all of his friends for performing.
"I love everybody right now," he said with that signature smile. "I'm sure glad I got a hold of those songs before those guys did."
Of course, Strait closed the night with his renditions of "Ocean Front Property" and "Write This Down" before everybody came on stage for the big finale, "Troubadour."
View photos from the television taping