You know the saying…”a lot can happen in a year.” That is certainly the case for country music, since this past year has been filled with new stories, songs, and memory-making moments.
This year, we watched countless country stars step up to help others in times of need. We’ve listened to artists pour their hearts out in songs they wrote about their own lives. We’ve had to say goodbye to some talented and beloved artists, songwriters, and musicians. And we’ve watched miracles happen before our eyes.
It would take days to list all of the monumental moments that happened in country music in 2016. But we’ve narrowed it down to the moments that had the greatest impact on people both within and outside of the country music community this year.
So go ahead, click the button below to relive some of the extraordinary country music moments of 2016.
1. Josh Turner’s 98-Year-Old Grandmother Makes Her Opry Debut
When Josh Turner appeared at the Grand Ole Opry on February 10, his entire family came out to support him. But it was Josh’s 98-year-old grandmother-in-law, Lois, who became the star of the show.
Josh invited Lois up on stage to make her Grand Ole Opry debut. She sat down at the piano and ended up delivering a soaring performance of “How Great Thou Art,” which earned a standing ovation from the crowd. And rightfully so!
2. Toby Keith Steps Up To Help Merle Haggard At One Of His Last Shows
When Merle Haggard took to the stage at the Mandalay Bay Ballroom in Las Vegas on February 6, no one had any idea that “The Hag” only had two months left on this Earth. After battling pneumonia for months, Merle was weak and out of breath. He struggled to get through his concert, but a friend of his was there to help.
Toby Keith showed up that day to watch Merle perform. Before he went on stage, Merle told Toby to stay close by, just in case he needed him. Toby did exactly that, and Merle came to him part of the way through the show to ask him for help.
“How many songs of mine do you know?” Merle asked, as recalled by actor W. Earl Brown, who witnessed the moment and wrote about it on Facebook.
“All of ’em,” Toby replied. “And I won’t need a teleprompter.”
After that, Toby joined Merle on stage for a series of songs, including one of his signatures, “Okie from Muskogee.”
3. Dolly Parton Embarks On First Tour In 25 Years
Called the Pure & Simple Tour, Parton hit the road in June and toured 60 cities in the U.S. and Canada, with her final concert occurring in Thackerville, OK. The tour announcement came with the release of a new album, also titled Pure & Simple. The album hit number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and also topped the Billboard Folk Albums chart.
4. Scotty McCreery Sings “Five More Minutes” At The Opry In Honor Of His Late Grandfather
Although Scotty McCreery hasn’t released the song “Five More Minutes” as a single yet, it has still reached millions of people. That’s all because of one emotional performance that took place at the Grand Ole Opry on June 10.
Scotty felt inspired to write “Five More Minutes” after the death of his grandfather on January 11, 2015. At the end of the song, he sings of how he begged God to just give him “five more minutes” with his grandfather before he passed away.
The emotion behind the lyrics was clear in Scotty’s performance, which earned a standing ovation from the crowd. The above video of the performance has since generated nearly 1.5 million views.
5. Joey + Rory Receive First Grammy Nomination
The country music community mourned the loss of one of its shining stars this year…Joey Feek. Fans followed Joey’s brave battle against cancer on her husband Rory’s blog until he shared the heartbreaking news that she had passed away on March 4.
There were high and low moments all throughout Joey’s battle. One of the brighter moments during that sad time was when the couple received the news that they had been nominated for their first Grammy Award.
Joey + Rory were nominated for Best Country/Duo Group Performance for their song, “If I Needed You.” Although they didn’t end up winning the award, the nomination was a ray of sunshine they needed during such a sad time.
Writing in his blog, Rory said they actually received something far greater than a Grammy in 2016. “The truth is, God has blessed us with the gift of something even bigger than a Grammy award this year… perspective,” he wrote.
6. Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman Film Adorable Lip Sync Duet
From his tenth wedding anniversary to the release of his ninth studio album, Ripcord, 2016 was a year of accomplishments for Keith Urban. One of the songs featured on his new album was a duet with Carrie Underwood called “The Fighter.” An accompanying video for the song soared to popularity, but Carrie wasn’t Keith’s co-star.
Since “The Fighter” was never released as a single, Keith never made a music video for it. But he did make an adorable lip sync video to the duet with his beautiful wife, actress Nicole Kidman.
Filmed in their car, the couple’s super-cute lip sync duet has been viewed over 50 million times on Facebook alone since it was posted in May. It still makes us smile every time we watch it!
7. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill Announce Their Soul2Soul Tour
During a September vacation, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill kept posting photos of each other with different symbols on them. The meaning behind those symbols was finally revealed on October 4 at the Ryman Auditorium, when Tim and Faith announced a Soul2Soul co-headlining tour for 2017.
The announcement was followed with a teaser trailer promoting the tour, which will take the country power couple across the U.S. and Canada. The tour kicks off on April 7 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and concludes on October 27 in Brooklyn, New York.
Guarantee it, Tim and Faith’s tour will be one of the biggest of 2017!
8. Nashville Is Cancelled…Then Returns
May 12 was a sad day for country music fans. That was the day that ABC announced its intentions to cancel the country music-centered television series Nashville at the end of its fourth season.
But the show’s stars and fans were determined to see it continue. After a passionate month-long social media campaign and a great deal of work behind the scenes, CMT announced on June 10 that it was picking up Nashville for a fifth season.
Country fans will get an exciting start to 2017, since the new season of Nashville kicks off on January 5. Based on the full-season trailer CMT released, it looks like it’s going to be the best season yet!
9. Home Free Releases A Cappella Cover Of ‘God Bless The USA’
A capella group Home Free released some incredible videos in 2016, but there was one that had the entire country in awe. Just days before the Fourth of July, Home Free shared their rendition of Lee Greenwood’s iconic patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA.”
Standing in front of Mount Rushmore, the five members of Home Free captivated millions with their passionate performance of “God Bless the USA.” In the mere months since the video was posted, it has accumulated over 4 million views, making it one of the group’s most successful videos to date. It’s no wonder why, because those harmonies have the power to give anyone instant chills.
10. Dierks Bentley Pays Tribute To His Best Bud, Jake
Jake was 15 years old when he died, and had been by Dierks’ side from the start of his career. He appeared on his debut album cover, and starred in his debut music video for “What Was I Thinkin’.”
Days after Jake passed away, Dierks paid a special tribute to his best bud during his performance of his number one hit “Every Mile a Memory.” As Dierks performed, photos of his loyal pup appeared on the screens behind him.
Jake may have been Dierks’ dog, but in a sense he belonged to the entire country music community. That’s why this tribute tugged at the heartstrings of so many country fans out there.
11. Alan Jackson & George Strait Keep It Country At The CMAs
Since 2016 marked the 50th year of the CMA Awards, the ceremony was all about celebrating the legendary artists who shaped country music. Some of these artists performed alongside modern stars during the show, bringing the story of country music full circle.
With the exception of the opening performance, the most memorable collaboration of the night took place between Alan Jackson and George Strait. As a tribute to country artists who have passed away, the two country icons sang two of their most memorable songs. Jackson opened the performance with his hit “Remember When,” before he and Strait brought it to an amazing conclusion with “Troubadour.”
Performances like these only happen once in a lifetime, and we’re so glad it happened in 2016.
12. Miranda Lambert Is Moved To Tears By Soldier’s Sign
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We saw plenty of moments in 2016 when country fans got to go up on stage with their favorite artist after making an eye-catching or witty sign to hold up at their concert. But the best response to a fan’s sign this year came from Miranda Lambert during her concert in Hartford, Connecticut on August 19.
While singing her song “The House That Built Me,” Miranda noticed someone holding up a sign in the crowd. She had the sign brought up to her on stage, because she wanted to show it to everyone there:
“3 combat tours…your voice was the last thing I heard every night. Thank you,” read the sign.
Miranda broke down in tears as the solider who held up the sign started crying as well. A fan happened to capture the emotional moment in a short video clip that has since been viewed thousands of times.
13. Don Williams Announces His Retirement
For six decades, Don Williams graced country music with the sound of his baritone voice. He released a total of 17 number one hits throughout his career, including “It Must Me Love,” “Til the Rivers All Run Dry,” and “I’m Just a Country Boy.”
In February, Don was forced to postpone his tour when he had to have an unexpected surgery performed on his hip. A month later, Don announced in a press release that he felt it was time for him to retire. The news shocked fans, but they understood the 76-year-old country legend’s reason behind his decision.
“It’s time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home,” Williams said.”I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support.”
14. Garth Brooks Makes History With Seven Diamonds
When an album sells a total of 10 million copies, it earns a “Diamond” certification status from the RIAA. Few artists have been able to snag even a single Diamond album during their career, but Garth Brooks had managed to earn six.
For the longest time, Garth was tied with The Beatles for the most Diamond albums, since they also had six. But that all changed one night in September, when Garth’s wife Trisha Yearwood interrupted him on stage with some big news…he had just earned his seventh Diamond album!
The seventh Diamond secured Garth’s spot as the highest-certified artist in the U.S. We’d say that was a pretty good reason for Garth to celebrate in 2016, wouldn’t you?
15. Randy Travis Proves That Miracles Can Happen
Garth was also on hand to witness one of the other most memorable country music moments of 2016. In 2013, Randy Travis suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak or sing. Over the course of 2016, he slowly started making more appearances, and sang in public for the first time in three years at a private funeral.
But the entire world got to witness a miracle when Randy stepped up on stage for his induction ceremony into the Country Music Hall of Fame. With his wife and Garth beside him, Randy took the microphone and stunned everyone when he started to sing “Amazing Grace.”
We’re sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the room once Randy finished singing. We still tear up every time we watch this miraculous moment.
16. Artists Honor Country Music History With Opening CMA Performance
12 of Country's favorite songs IN THE FIRST 10 MINUTES! Watch #CMAawards50 NOW on ABC!
Posted by CMA Country Music Association on Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Randy also had a huge role to play in the history-making opening performance at the 2016 CMAs. The spectacular opener brought country legends and modern stars together on stage to perform snippets of some of the genre’s greatest songs of all time.
Carrie Underwood sang Tammy Wynette‘s “Stand By Your Man,” Charley Pride performed his signature hit “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” with Brad Paisley, and Reba McEntire revisited her iconic song “Fancy.”
But the greatest part of the entire opening came at the end, when the entire group of artists started singing Randy’s “Forever and Ever, Amen.” Randy slowly made his way on stage to stand between Carrie and Brad, before he took the microphone and sang the final “amen.” It was a moment that is sure to stick out in memories of country fans for years to come.
17. Vince Gill Pays Tribute To Arnold Palmer With “Go Rest High on That Mountain”
When golf legend Arnold Palmer passed away on September 25, Vince Gill was hit particularly hard by the news. As an avid golfer himself, Vince had developed a close friendship with Arnold over the years.
As Arnold’s family prepared the arrangements for his memorial service, they invited Vince to come sing in his honor. Vince was touched by the invitation, and performed his emotional song “Go Rest High on That Mountain” during the memorial in a tribute to his dear friend. He even went so far as to change the lyrics, saying “your sweet, sweet swing” instead of “hear your sweet voice sing.” What a beautiful performance…
18. Dolly Parton Debuts Christmas Of Many Colors
I hope you'll join us on November 30th to watch Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love on NBC!
Posted by Dolly Parton on Friday, November 18, 2016
Last year, Dolly Parton released a television movie about her childhood called Coat of Many Colors. Its messages pertaining to faith and family touched the hearts of millions, and it broke the record for the most-viewed television movie.
Due to the first film’s success, Dolly released a Christmas-themed sequel called Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love on November 30. Once again, the movie told stories from Dolly’s childhood growing up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and was heavily faith and family-based. As expected, the sequel made people fall in love with Dolly even more than before.
19. Dolly Parton Steps Up To Help Her People
At the same time that Dolly’s Christmas of Many Colors was playing across television screens, wildfires were tearing through her home county in Tennessee. Wanting to help those affected by the fires, Dolly established the My People Fund to provide assistance to families who lost their homes.
With a goal to provide $1000 to every family whose home was lost or uninhabitable, Dolly announced her plans for a benefit telethon. Called Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund, the telethon featured performances from Reba, Chris Stapleton, Kenny Rogers, and more.
20. Carrie Underwood Invites Crystal Gayle To Join The Grand Ole Opry
Anyone who knows country music knows that one of the greatest honors an artist can receive is membership into the Grand Ole Opry. We’ve seen the moment unfold so many times before…an artist performs on the Opry stage, only to be joined by a current member. That member then extends the invitation to their fellow artist to join the Grand Ole Opry, and they emotionally accept.
That moment occurred between Carrie Underwood and Crystal Gayle in 2016. After singing Crystal’s iconic hit “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Carrie asked her if she’d like to become a member of the Opry.
Crystal was left speechless by the offer, but of course she accepted! Congratulations to her!
21. “Forever Country”
Leading up to the CMA Awards, the CMA wanted to do something big to celebrate the ceremony’s 50th anniversary. That’s how “Forever Country” was born.
The mega-mashup features a total of 30 country music artists. Country legends such as Alabama and Willie Nelson sang along with modern stars, including Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan in order to create what may arguably be the biggest mashup song ever.
Comprised of three iconic country songs (Willie’s “On the Road Again,” John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You), “Forever Country” gave each of the 30 artists a chance to contribute a snippet to the tune.
The CMA released an accompanying video for the song on September 20, which has since been viewed over 12 million times. Because the artists couldn’t all be in the same place at the same time, the video features them standing in front of moving green screen backgrounds depicting country scenes and city skyscrapers.
While “Forever Country” focused on country music’s present and future, the entire thing came full circle back to the past at the end. It’s then that the camera focuses solely on Dolly, who sings the final line to “I Will Always Love You” alone. What a perfect conclusion to such a monumental piece of country music’s 2016.
Here’s to a whole new year of memory-making country music moments in 2017!