On Wednesday evening, Carrie Underwood hosted the 51st Annual Country Music Awards alongside Brad Paisley for the tenth year in a row. It was a momentous occasion for the two stars, but not just because the awards show marked a decade of hosting together. Before the night was over, Underwood broke down in tears on stage, with viewers then noticing what was right behind her.
“This has been a year marked by tragedy, impacting countless lives, including so many in our country music family,” Underwood said during her monologue. “So tonight, we’re going to do what families do: come together, pray together, cry together, and sing together, too.”
“The way we see it, the best way to honor our fans is to play our music — loud and proud,” added Paisley, according to PEOPLE. “Our music lifts people up and that’s what we’re here to do tonight. So, this year’s show is dedicated to all of those we’ve lost and to all of those who are still healing. We love you and we will never forget you.”
On October 1, 2017, 64-year-old gunman Stephen Craig Paddock opened fire on the thousands of concertgoers who had gathered in Las Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest Festival. His bloody rampage began as country singer Jason Aldean was performing onstage, and at first, many country music fans in the audience thought they were hearing fireworks, not gunshots. However, their worst fears were soon confirmed as people began collapsing as they were struck by Paddock’s bullets.
The country music community was hit hard by the massacre in Las Vegas last month, which has since been dubbed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Indeed, no one attends a live country music concert thinking that they might not make it out alive. Likewise, none of the performers ever thought that their set might be interrupted by gunfire being rained down from a room high atop the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
In the wake of this tragedy in Las Vegas, country music artists poured their thoughts and prayers towards the victims of the shooting. Their collective gestures were appreciated, but what Carrie Underwood did at the CMAs on Wednesday night will resonate with the friends and families of those who lost their lives in Vegas for years to come.
In a tremendously moving tribute to the Las Vegas victims, Underwood belted out the Christian Hymn “Softly and Tenderly” as the captive audience watched in awe. As the legendary songstress stood on a platform in the middle of the crowd wearing a white ballgown, you could have heard a pin drop in the packed room.
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) November 9, 2017
Underwood was unable to make it to the end of her performance without breaking down emotionally, although she wasn’t the only one. Indeed, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as she sang.
Underwood had difficulty finishing the final lines of the hymn as she wept for the Las Vegas victims, although her intensely emotional performance only added to the gravity of the moment. As she started to cry, on a massive screen behind her, the pictures of all 58 victims were displayed in black and white.
The victims of the shooting in Las Vegas were remembered during the Country Music Association Awards’ in-memoriam segment on Wednesday night.
As Carrie Underwood finished her rendition of “Softly and Tenderly,” the photos and names of the 58 victims were displayed on the screen with the date of the tragedy — October. 1, 2017.
The audience held lighted candles as Underwood sang. [Source: ABC 15]
Of course, had this been an awards show on MTV or BET, you can be sure there would have no been no hymns sung. Instead, artists undoubtedly would have taken the stage and used their platform to denounce Republicans or push for gun control.
This tribute by Carrie Underwood and the country music community was absolutely beautiful and entirely appropriate. In times of unspeakable tragedy, we need less politics and more faith.