OFFSTAGE: Oprah Winfrey Starts in Nashville, Says Goodbye in Chicago

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Oprah Winfrey was still in high school when she got her first real job at WVOL radio in Nashville in the early ’70s. And on Tuesday night (May 17), some 40 years later, she started saying her goodbyes to the whole world after about 4,560 episodes of her legendary talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. I was there for the taping of two of her final shows, and while I don’t want to give too much away, there are some bits and pieces I want to highlight so you don’t miss out. There were rules at the taping, as there usually are, like no gum chewing, no picture taking and no phone checking. There were no alcoholic beverages served during the taping or beforehand, either. But once the 13,000 people there agreed to live by those rules, this was some of the reward:

Madonna, on why Winfrey is her hero: “She has balls — and a wealth of compassion.”

Dakota Fanning, saying she was one of the Oprah Show Babies: “We believe girls can run the world.”

Beyoncé, in her biggest girl-power anthem yet: “Who runs the world? Girls! We run this motha. Girls!” She was the absolute show-stopper with that big number, complete with rows and rows of dancing girls. (Note to Beyoncé, though: If girls are indeed going to run the world, must we do so in menswear? I say lose the tuxedos next time.)

Jada Pinkett Smith: “You don’t have children of your own, but you have mothered millions,” adding that Winfrey had the status of a goddess.

Jamie Foxx, before singing “Isn’t She Lovely” with Stevie Wonder: “There is so much passion between us, I’m surprised Stedman [Winfrey's boyfriend] hasn’t whupped my ass.”

Simon Cowell praised Winfrey for “bringing out the best in people. Even me.”

Winfrey herself was full of quotable things to say, too, but I won’t spoil that for you. I will say, though, that her best line — and one she used often in her 25 years as the world’s greatest talk show host — was, “You’ve always had the power.” (Glinda, the good witch, from The Wizard of Oz)

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.