Artists pay tribute to country legends Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers and more at 2020 CMA Awards

HAYLEY FITZPATRICK and CARSON BLACKWELDER
·4 min read

Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne and Ashley McBryde opened the 2020 CMA Awards with an emotional tribute for late country great Charlie Daniels.

The Country Music Hall of Famer died unexpectedly in July at the age of 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.

MORE: CMA Awards 2020: Complete winners list

Daniels won a Grammy award for best country vocal performance for the song he was best known for, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” in 1979. He also released hits including "Uneasy Rider, "In America," "The South's Gonna Do It," "Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues," and "Simple Man" during his career. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008.

The group performed a medley of Daniels' songs, including "Trudy," "Texas," "Long Haired Country Boy" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Jenee Fleenor was slated to join the performance but was forced to drop out after a positive COVID-19 test.

"Obviously losing Charlie was a huge thing for the country music world this year," Jason Aldean said while appearing on the "Countdown to the CMA Awards, Live!" pre-show on ABC News Live ahead of the ceremony. "He was always a big influence for me growing up in Georgia and kind of having country music and southern rock being a big part of what he did."

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"It's just a sad thing to lose him this year," he added. "Every time I ever got a chance to spend any time with him at all, he was just so cool to younger artists and took his time to really hang out and talk to them."

PHOTO: Ashley McBryde performs onstage during the The 54th Annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 11, 2020. (Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Ashley McBryde performs onstage during the The 54th Annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 11, 2020. (Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

During the show, other stars paid tribute to country artists who have died in 2020, including Kenny Rogers, Joe Diffie, and Mac Davis. Scroll down for more info on those performances.

Jon Pardi honors Joe Diffie

Jon Pardi took to the stage to pay tribute to Joe Diffie, who passed away on March 29 from complications due to COVID-19. The "Dirt on My Boots" singer performed Diffie's 1994 hit song "Pickup Man" while the late icon's widow, Tara, watched from the audience.

Diffie, who won a Grammy for best country collaboration with vocals in 1999 for the song "Same Old Train," is also known for songs such as "Home," "If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)," "Third Rock from the Sun" and "Bigger Than the Beatles."

MORE: Women in country music talk pushing for more representation and diversity in the genre

Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker honor Mac Davis

2020 CMA Awards co-hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker channeled Elvis Presley with a duet of "In the Ghetto," originally written by the late Mac Davis.

Davis, a singer himself, penned other hit songs for Presley, including "Memories," "Don't Cry Daddy" and "A Little Less Conversation." He died on Sept. 29 at the age of 78 following heart surgery.

MORE: Reba McEntire reflects on 2020: From her mother's death to her new relationship

Little Big Town honors Kenny Rogers

Little Big Town paid tribute to Kenny Rogers with a medley of the late country legend's hits. The group — consisting of Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook — performed "Sweet Music Man."

Rogers, perhaps best known for "The Gambler" or for his many duets with Dolly Parton, most famously "Islands in the Stream," died of natural causes at the age of 81 on March 20 while under hospice care at his Georgia home.

During his career, Rogers amassed three Grammys. He also won five CMA Awards and, in 2013, received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization.

"He was so kind to us and we were able to spend time with him," Sweet said of Rogers on the "Countdown to the CMA Awards, Live!" pre-show on ABC News Live. "Just every time we got to spend time with him, he was complimentary of our harmonies."

At the time of his passing, Parton shared a tearful tribute to her friend and frequent collaborator. "So you be safe with God and just know that I will always love you," she wrote, calling him a "wonderful man."

Check out the winners of the 2020 CMA Awards here.

Artists pay tribute to country legends Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers and more at 2020 CMA Awards originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com