It was teased for practically the entire night. But finally, near the end of the 2022 ACM Awards, Kelly Clarkson hit the stage for a stunning, emotional performance in tribute to the evening’s host and country music legend, Dolly Parton. Clarkson belted out her rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” and we swear, there wasn’t a single dry eye in the audience.
Clarkson took the stage at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas wearing a gorgeous long-sleeve, floor-length black gown and looked absolutely elegant and classic. Accompanied by a piano, the original American Idol winner was completely poised as she sang the first verse of the song. Then came the big moment where Clarkson belted out the chorus, and we genuinely got chills.
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Parton wrote the song and recorded it herself in 1973. The beautiful ballad was meant as a sorrowful farewell to her longtime business partner Porter Wagoner. In the early ’90s, Whitney Houston famously recorded her own iteration of the song for the 1992 film The Bodyguard, in which she starred. To this day, it’s still one of the most beloved, iconic ballads, and Clarkson’s rendition absolutely touched Parton’s heart.
Following Clarkson’s performance, Parton took the stage and gave the “Miss Independent” singer a huge hug. Parton even commented on how she was fighting back tears while listening to Clarkson backstage, also sharing how proud Houston would be to hear Clarkson’s rendition. It was honestly such a touching, poignant way to finish off the night and pay tribute to one of country music’s absolute living legends.
Before you go, click here to see photos from the 2022 ACM Awards Red Carpet.