Country music’s biggest night kicked off Wednesday with a remembrance of what has been a year of tragedy.
Held in Nashville, the The 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards began with an all star choir including Darius Rucker, Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum singing the Hootie and the Blowfish hit “Hold My Hand.”
Hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley then paid tribute to the victims of mass shootings including at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas last month and those impacted by the hurricanes in Texas, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.
“This has been a year marked by tragedy impacting countless lives including so many in our country music family,” Underwood said. “So, tonight we’re gonna do what families do: come together, pray together and cry together, too.”
Paisley added, “Look, the way we see it, the best way to honor our fans is to play our music, loud and proud.”
“Our music lifts people up and that’s what we’re here to do tonight,” Paisley said. “So this year’s show’s dedicated to all those we lost and to all those who are still healing. We love you and we will never forget you.”
The country music community was shaken last month when a gunman opened fire during the music festival in Las Vegas, leaving 58 people dead and more than 500 injured.
The tragedy was one of the subjects the Country Music Association had initially banned journalists from discussing on the red carpet, a decision it reversed after much criticism, including from Paisley.
On Wednesday, Underwood and Paisley joked about the CMA’s prohibition on political topics.
The pair sang a little ditty to the tune of Underwood’s hit “Before He Cheats,” which they changed to include the lyrics, “And it’s fun to watch it that’s for sure/’Til little rocket man starts a nuclear war/ Maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets” to poke fun at President Donald Trump.
The first award of the night, single of the year, went to Keith Urban for “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”