Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year and Brooks & Dunn’s inspirational song “Believe” won three trophies, including single and song of the year, at the 40th annual Country Music Assn. Awards Monday night.
One of the night’s more poignant moments came from a winner who wasn’t even there — Keith Urban. The Aussie country star, who last month entered a rehabilitation center for alcohol abuse, won male vocalist of the year for the second year in a row.
When Urban’s name was announced, he received a standing ovation, and his award was accepted by Ronnie Dunn, who read a letter from Urban in which he thanked his friends and family and actress-wife Nicole Kidman, whom he married earlier this year: “To my wife, Nicole, I love you. I’m looking forward to coming home and seeing you all soon.”
Besides accepting the award for Urban, Dunn was busy accepting awards and also hosting the show along with his partner, Kix Brooks. The pair also won musicvideo of the year for “Believe” and opened the night by performing “Building Bridges” with guests Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow.
The gospel-tinged “Believe” was co-written by Dunn and Craig Wiseman, who also co-wrote Tim McGraw’s smash “Live Like You Were Dying.” Both won song of the year honors for “Believe.”
As expected, Brooks & Dunn also won vocal duo award. The two have owned the category since 1992, winning every year except in 2000 when Montgomery Gentry won.
The multiplatinum band Rascal Flatts took the vocal group award, capping what singer Gary LeVox described as an “amazing year.”
Brad Paisley, who was shut out last year despite six nominations, went into the night with a win this year. Before Monday’s show, he and Dolly Parton won musical event of the year for their spiritual song “When I Get Where I’m Going.” It was Parton’s first CMA award since 1996.
“I thank her so much for raising the bar on this song,” Paisley said of the music icon, who was not there to accept.
The show returned to Nashville after one year in New York City.