At the 41st Annual Kennedy Center Honors on Wednesday night (Dec. 26), the room was packed with celebrities there to honor this year’s honorees. Reba was the first to be fêted, and Cher was the last.
Country radio host Bobby Bones was one of the first on the stage to tell his story of how he fell in love with Reba. “It all started when I was a kid back in Arkansas and I went to my first ever Reba concert,” Bones shared. “And even though you were a massive superstar, and even though I was sitting in nosebleed section B99, and even though I was a 12-year-old with a mullet haircut, I knew, Reba, you were singing just to me.” He said that when he eventually had the chance to talk with her, all his anxiety about being around one of the biggest stars was gone in seconds because she was so warm, honest, and genuine. “You’ll never have a false moment with Reba.”
Next up was Kelly Clarkson, who couldn’t hide her emotions when she talked about becoming part of Reba’s family. “Sometimes when we meet our heroes, it doesn’t always pan out how you hope. But meeting Reba, being friends with her, and eventually becoming family, has been one of the highlights of my life,” she said before paying tribute to the country star with her 1991 ballad of child prostitution, “Fancy.”
When Lady Antebellum came out to the stage, Hillary Scott shared her own personal connection to Reba. “As a little girl, I was lucky enough to grow up watching Reba side stage. Both my parents toured with her, and my mom Linda Davis sang with her on ’Does He Love You?’ I learned so much from Reba,” Scott said. “Some things she might not even know she taught me. She taught me that if you’re willing to take risks, and outwork every one around you, you will find your place in this business.”
When it was Melissa Peterman’s turn to toast Reba, she recalled a story from their days together as actors on the hit TV sitcom Reba. “I will never forget our very first table read, and how you introduced yourself to everyone. ’Hi. I’m Reba McEntire.’ She used her last name. You know. In case we confused her with all the other Rebas,” Peterman joked. “In that little moment, Reba, you showed us exactly who you were. Which is someone so kind and genuine and down to earth. Working with you was pure joy.”
The Reba Tribute Song List
Kelly Clarkson: “Fancy” from 1991
Lady Antebellum: “Is There Life Out There?” and “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” both from 1992
Kristin Chenoweth: “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” from the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun
Brooks & Dunn: “Why Haven’t I Heard from You” from 1994
By the end of the two-hour live broadcast, when it was time to honor Cher, Little Big Town took the stage for a medley of some of their favorite Cher songs. “Half Breed” from 1973, “I Found Someone” from 1987, and “Baby Don’t Go,” one of the first collaborations from Sonny & Cher after becoming husband and wife in 1964.
“Cher, back when the four of us first started out as a band,” the band’s Karen Fairchild said, “we used to listen to your music and this song all the time. And were honored to sing for you tonight. Thank you for all the inspiration.”
The other honorees at the ceremony were Philip Glass, Wayne Shorter, and the four co-creators of the musical Hamilton.