5 Best Moments from ‘Reportin’ for Duty: A Tribute to Leslie Jordan’

Leslie Jordan’s life was celebrated through music and uplifting words on Sunday night (Feb. 19) at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. Artists far and wide came to pay tribute to the man who touched so many lives. 

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Reportin’ for Duty: A Tribute To Leslie Jordan featured performances by Eddie Vedder, Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne, Ashley McBryde, Lainey Wilson and many others. Mayim Bialik, who starred alongside Jordan on the Fox series, Call Me Kat, New Girl star Max Greenfield and comedian Margaret Cho were among the actors who spoke highly of their friend. The Emmy Award-winning Will & Grace actor saw his star power get even brighter during the COVID-19 pandemic when he gained a substantial following on Instagram with his light-hearted, humorous videos–often seen dancing like no one was watching or deftly using a backscratcher as a baton. Clips from many of said videos were highlighted during the show.

Many of those who paid tribute acknowledged Jordan’s acts of service, with Bialik noting his volunteerism with Project Angel Food and Project Nightline in the 1990s in Los Angeles, which provided support to people living with AIDS. In 2021, the Chattanooga, Tennessee, native waded into the waters of country music with his collaborative album, Company’s Comin,’ a collection of gospel hymns he recorded with Dolly Parton, Brothers Osborne, Vedder and more.

Jordan died in a car accident in October 2022 following a cardiac event. He was 67. Though there were a few tears shed throughout the night, Reportin’ for Duty was truly a celebration of life and a musical memorial for the larger-than-life star. Here are five of the best moments from the show.  

Maren Morris & Ryan Hurd Perform “What Would This World Do?” 

Though written in honor of Morris’ late songwriting collaborator and producer, busbee, the singer was right in saying that it also made for a “fitting” tribute to Jordan. Inviting her husband Hurd onto the stage, the couple offered a moving rendition of the song that was just as powerful as it is when Morris sings it at her own shows.

Their voices were strong and steady as they pondered, but I still got just one question that I can’t work through / What would this world do without you? “I know that he would want all of us to keep chasing rainbows, even when there are clouds in the sky,” Morris observed of Jordan while introducing Parton. 

Dolly Parton Tribute: “I want you to know that I will always love you” 

In typical Parton fashion, her tribute to her “dear friend” was equal parts heartwarming and comical. The legendary singer sent in a video message that she opened in song with lines from the hymn, “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies,” which they performed together on Company’s Comin.’ She then launched into a message of love, joking that they’re both “crazy as hell” and “made everybody laugh when we were together.”

“You left a lot of people here with a lot of precious memories. Everybody loved you, but I doubt that many of them loved you more than I did,” Parton praised. “I just want you to know that we all love you, we all miss you, and I bet you’re having a big laugh over all us being sad and sorrowful and I know that would be the last thing you would want us to be. You made us happy while you were here, and we’re happy that you’re at peace, and I just want you to know that I will always love you.” 

Fancy Hagood Sings “Go Rest High on That Mountain” 

One of the most powerful performances of the night came in the form of Hagood’s rendition of the Vince Gill classic, “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” with John Osborne on guitar. “It really is an honor to be here tonight,” Hagood said, reflecting on how he got to perform with Jordan at the Ryman Auditorium in 2021.

“Long before he was my friend, he was my hero. Leslie was a proud Tennessean, as am I, and tonight this performance is for any queer person in this state,” Hagood proclaimed before launching into the show-stopping performance. A collective hush fell over the audience as their stunning voices took the song to new heights, serving as a humble, noble tribute to the hymn-loving Jordan. “We miss you Leslie, we love you,” Hagood said. 

Brittney Spencer Presents “Sober & Skinny” 

While Jordan’s sparkling personality quickly caught people’s attention, Spencer touched on another aspect of what made Jordan special: uplifting new artists. The two connected after Jordan started following her on Instagram, much to Spencer’s excitement.

“One of the most overwhelming and special things as a new artist is when you find out that someone you’ve been a fan of for a really long time is now a fan of what you do,” she professed. “Leslie was so good at making so many new and upcoming artists feel special and feel like what they did mattered.”

She followed the kind words with a performance of “Sober & Skinny,” a song that she says Jordan was “so supportive of.” It’s an example of the best that modern country songwriting has to offer, and it’s easy to see what Jordan saw in her, as Spencer’s soft, yet enduring voice pulls the listener in with every word. “Thank you for encouraging me as an artist, Leslie,” Spencer praised. “Thank you for encouraging so many people to be themselves, to laugh, to find joy, to find happiness.”  

Brothers Osborne Perform “I’m Not For Everyone” & “Younger Me” 

Brothers John and TJ Osborne formed a strong friendship with Jordan two years before his passing as a part of Company’s Comin.’ To salute their friend, they offered a pair of performances that held personal meaning, opening their set with “I’m Not For Everyone,” in which Jordan was the video’s star. “That man would give so much of himself to everyone,” TJ recalled of Jordan’s on-set demeanor. They followed it with the poignant “Younger Me,” which the brothers wrote with Kendell Marvel about TJ’s experience. TJ publicly came out in February 2021 before he met the legendary actor. “When I first met Leslie, [he] did not know that I was gay, I wasn’t out at the time,” he explained. “So in the short period of time we knew each other, I’d come out…it was a really crazy experience to have with someone in such a short period of time.” 

The Brothers’ performance of “Younger Me” was made even more special by the fact that TJ dedicated it to a gay couple in the audience who were celebrating their 20th anniversary. “This song was really written out of response to me growing up younger, but not ever thinking I would be able to do this,” TJ expressed. “I’m sure with y’all 20 years in, I’m sure you never thought that you would be happily lovely together and to be here tonight and comfortable and being able to express your love. What a beautiful thing.”

It gave the song new meaning hearing it on the stage, the Osbornes allowing the last few lines to really sink as they sang, younger me / You got me where I am today / Got a few things right along the way / You’ll see, just wait / Younger me. It was a fitting way to celebrate Jordan’s love of life and the way he shared love out into the world, proving that Jordan was indeed for everyone. 

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM  

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