If Kenny Rogers didn’t think his life was flashing before him at the 2013 CMA Awards, it probably was close.
The legendary singer was feted with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at Wednesday’s (Nov. 6) event in Nashville. And in a refreshing change from how such tributes usually work, Rogers was right on stage with those saluting him for the entire segment.
First, a clearly admiring Jennifer Nettles — “my new best female friend,” per Rogers — sat next to him and serenaded the “Sweet Music Man,” as she called him, with the song by that name.
Then came Rascal Flatts, who recalled Rogers’ pop-music phase with the First Edition by performing “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” And Rogers later joked that was the group’s introduction to “the psychedelic era.”
Darius Rucker‘s turn was next, and his selection was a tune without which it wouldn’t be a Kenny Rogers tribute: ‘The Gambler,” not only one of the biggest and most enduring hits of Rogers’ career, but also the springboard for a series of successful TV movies and miniseries in which the singer starred.
The capper was Nettles’ teaming with Rogers on the Bee Gees-written “Islands in the Stream,” a song he made hugely popular with Dolly Parton … who likely would have been on hand for the tribute, had she not been recuperating from a recent car accident. The crowd stood and sang along, with Jason Mraz among those seen clearly mouthing the words.
Finally speaking after all the singing, Rogers — whose new album is “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” with another Parton duet on the title song — noted that “it’s been a hell of a month,” since he’s also just been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. “I can’t wait to see what next week brings!”