By Maxim Mower
The CMA Awards are renowned for consistently delivering an abundance of glitz and glamour, with performers roaring across the stage and delivering high-octane sets.
However, one of the most moving and spine-tingling moments of the 2023 CMA Awards was undoubtedly the Jimmy Buffett tribute led by Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Alan Jackson and Mac McAnally.
This was made all the more touching by the fact that each performer had a personal connection to Jimmy Buffett. Kenny Chesney has never shied away from the fact that his tropical-themed, sun-soaked sound was inspired by the ‘Margaritaville’ hitmaker, with Kenny having performed alongside Jimmy on a number of occasions.
Similarly, Zac Brown Band worked with Jimmy Buffett on their escapist anthem, ‘Knee Deep’, while Mac McAnally has been a close friend and member of Jimmy's iconic Coral Reefers Band for many years.
Alan Jackson, of course, joined Jimmy Buffett to produce one of the most popular and most quoted country songs of all time, the playful, swaggering ‘It's 5 O’Clock Somewhere’.
Kenny Chesney and Mac McAnally kicked things off with a deeply moving acoustic performance of ‘A Pirate Looks At Forty’, with Mac McAnally endearingly switching out the key lyric with, “Jimmy made a whole world full of friends”.
Kenny Chesney and Mac McAnally's vocals gelled beautifully, with the two having previously collaborated on a stellar revamped version of ‘Down The Road’. However, at the same time, they generously ensured the spotlight was placed firmly on the magic of the song and Jimmy Buffett's lyricism, rather than attempting to steal the moment.
Kenny Chesney concluded the duo's spellbinding performance by looking to the sky and vulnerably expressing his gratitude to his sonic forefather, “Thank you, Jimmy”, before Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band took over for a soulful, stripped-back introduction to Jimmy Buffett's now-iconic, chart-topping hit, ‘Margaritaville’.
The crowd vehemently sang along to every word, even indulging in the convention of shouting ‘Salt, salt salt’ during the hook. For a brief moment, the colossal Bridgestone Arena was completely transformed into a sunny, tequila-drenched Key West dive bar.
It's safe to say the four artists produced a tribute that would've made Jimmy proud.
Elsewhere in the evening, the 2023 CMA Awards stage was graced by Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs, HARDY, Megan Moroney, Old Dominion, Chris Stapleton, Ashley McBryde and more.
For more on the 2023 CMA Awards, see below: