The post-September 11 renewal of American patriotism was evident at this year's Academy of Country Music or ACM Awards show Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Earning three ACM awards on the night, including Entertainer of the Year, Top Vocal Duo of the Year, and Country Video of the Year for "Only In America," raised Brooks and Dunn's career total to 16 wins. That number moved them past Merle Haggard to the top of the all-time ACM winners list. An exuberant Ronnie Dunn exclaimed, "We've got the most beautiful wives in the world. We've got wonderful, healthy children, and we live in the greatest country in the world. Somebody take a picture. It doesn't get any better than this!"
Alan Jackson matched the three wins achieved by Brooks and Dunn. Jackson took honors in the Top Male Vocalist category along with Single Record of the Year, and Song of the Year, also known as the songwriter's award, for "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)," his reaction to September 11. Jackson drew a standing ovation for his acceptance speech.
"Without humbling you all to death up here," he said, "I've always felt uncomfortable about the attention that this song has brought to me, and I was always uncomfortable about what it was written about. I'm still angry and sad and forever changed by what happened that day, and I thank God for sending the words and music down to me, because I believe I was an instrument for that, for whatever reason. I don't feel like I can accept an award for this song without sharing it with, and dedicating it to, the thousands of people - men, women and children - who died or suffered and are still suffering because of that cowardly and heartless attack on America and mankind. This is for all of them from us."
Other winners included Martina McBride for Top Female Vocalist; Lonestar, Top Vocal Group; Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Top New Female Vocalist; Phil Vassar, Top New Male Vocalist; and Trick Pony, Top New Vocal Group.
During the ceremony, the members of Alabama announced a farewell tour scheduled for 2003. Hank Williams, Junior offered a moving tribute to Waylon Jennings, the country legend who passed away in February.
The evening also featured two special presentations. Fans voting on the Internet selected Reba McEntire, the hostess of the ceremony, to receive the Humanitarian Award. Working for causes such as AIDS, breast cancer and pediatric care, McEntire talked about the joys of giving back to the community:
"Thank you," she said. "I love you. I know you've all heard the saying, even when we were little ol' kids, 'it's better to give than receive.' When I was a kid, I didn't believe that for a second. But, the older I got, I realized, you know, that it is the greatest lesson we can learn … is to give. And getting to participate with all of the people all over the country with their charitable organizations, it has been a huge blessing to me. We've had a lot of fun doing all the charitable things we've gotten to do. So, thank you all for this honor."
Ronnie Milsap, whose lifetime accopmlishments include 40 Number One singles, more than 30 albums, seven Grammy Awards and 11 Academy of Country Music or Country Music Association Awards, was presented the Pioneer Award, given for career achievement. Milsap thanked those who helped him along the way.
Ronnie Milsap said, "God bless you. Thank you, so much. You know, somewhere around 30 years ago, I met Charlie Pride in Los Angeles, and he said, 'Come to Nashville!' I certainly appreciate that. So many people have been responsible for making this happen. And Joycie, thank you so very much … my wife, Joycie; the fans, God bless you! Hey! Your support and encouragement! Alright, baby! Thank you! Woo! What a night to remember! Yeah!"
The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack album made it a clean sweep, winning the ACM Album of the Year Award to go with the Grammy and Country Music Association album honors it's already claimed.
Performed by the Soggy Bottom Boys, "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow", the lead single from the O Brother album, was named ACM Vocal Event of the Year.