7 Iconic Performances by Country Legends

Country music is not only known for its lyricism but also its performances. More than just fringe, rhinestones and cowboy hats, country music offers stellar showmanship that often reflects the depths of the songs. From Dolly Parton to Chris Stapleton, check out some iconic performances from country legends.

Videos by American Songwriter

1. Garth Brooks at Central Park in 1997

Garth Brooks’ performance at Central Park in New York City is the stuff of urban legends. When Brooks took the outdoor stage, allegedly a million people showed up to watch as he powered through such hits as “The Thunder Rolls,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “The River” and several others. At one point, Brooks made his way into the massive audience, shaking hands and collecting flowers fans had brought him, adding to the impact of the monumental moment in country music history.

2. Dolly Parton Sings “I Will Always Love You” on the Porter Wagoner Show

When Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” as a goodbye song to her former partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, little did she know it would become a cultural phenomenon. It all started with this performance on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1974. “This is I think one of the prettiest songs she’s ever recorded,” Wagoner praised while introducing Parton to perform “I Will Always Love You” for the first time. Per usual, Parton sings like an angel and effectively communicates the emotion of the tender-hearted ballad.

3. Reba McEntire & Linda Davis Perform “Does He Love You”

Reba McEntire and Linda Davis made a splash when they debuted their duet, “Does He Love You?” at the 1993 CMA Awards. The two offered flawless vocals, complete with a series of runs that showed off their powerhouse chops that lit up the CMA stage. This certainly qualifies as an iconic performance, one that warranted an extended standing ovation from the star-studded crowd, which included Liza Minnelli and host Vince Gill.

4. Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake Perform “Tennessee Whiskey”

It’s safe to say that Chris Stapleton’s life changed after his performance with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards. The two teamed up on Stapleton’s now-signature hit, “Tennessee Whiskey,” Stapleton using the platform to prove that he’s one of country music’s best vocalists that most viewers likely hadn’t heard of at the time. Stapleton, Timberlake and Stapleton’s wife and background singer Morgane Stapleton’s voices blended seamlessly. By the performance’s end, Stapleton was country music’s newest superstar.

5. The Chicks Sing with Beyonce

When The Chicks took the stage with Beyonce at the 50th annual CMA Awards, they created an unforgettable moment in country music history. From the jubilant horn section to the sheer presence of Beyonce at a country awards show, the two acts put on a show-stopping performance of their collaborative song, “Daddy Lessons.” It’s not only one of the most epic collaborations in CMA Awards history, but the genre at large.

6. Loretta Lynn’s Final Performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter”

In honor of Loretta Lynn’s 87th birthday in 2019, some of Nashville’s biggest stars including Brooks, George Strait, Keith Urban and Trisha Yearwood came together for a birthday party at Bridgestone Arena wherein they sang some of Lynn’s greatest hits. The show culminated with a star-studded sing-a-long to Lynn’s signature hit, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Despite having a stroke in 2017, Lynn sang with confidence and from the heart in what would be her final performance of the career-defining track before she passed away in October 2022.

7. Randy Travis Sings “Amazing Grace” at Country Music Hall of Fame Induction

When Randy Travis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016, that wasn’t the only monumental achievement to occur that night. After Travis suffered a massive stroke in 2013, he had to re-learn how to walk, write and play guitar. At the induction ceremony, Travis demonstrated a near-miracle when he stunned the audience by singing “Amazing Grace.” It was certainly a moving moment from one of country music’s most prominent legends.

Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

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