During the 43rd Kennedy Center Honors, a pre-filmed event that aired on CBS Sunday night, Brooks leaned his head back and smiled. Tears welled up in his eyes as Clarkson belted a stripped-down version of “The Dance.”
As the song came to a close, Brooks took off his hat, stood up and let out a cheer.
Clarkson has said the song holds special meaning, as it recently helped her get through a divorce, Billboard reported. “The Dance” also inspired a track on her upcoming album.
Brooks was one of five honorees at the special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The event honors recipients for “their contributions to American culture through the performing arts,” according to the Kennedy Center’s website.
“There’s country music, rock, gospel, honky-tonk — and then there’s Garth Brooks,” actor Bradley Cooper said at the start of Brooks’ tribute, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Garth is a power hitter, who swung for the fences and shattered the barriers between musical genres, forever expanding the vocabulary of country music and changing American culture.”
During his tribute, Brooks also got emotional as James Taylor — who Brooks has cited as one of his major influences — performed “The River.” He stood up and clapped along as country singer Jimmie Allen sang “Friends in Low Places,” and again became visibly emotional as Gladys Knight performed “We Shall Be Free,” USA Today reported.
Other honorees at the ceremony included legendary actor Dick Van Dyke, folk singer and activist Joan Baez, violinist Midori and actress/dancer/singer Debbie Allen.
Brooks is resuming touring this summer and will headline a concert in Salt Lake City on July 17, the Deseret News reported.
“I want to see those signs,” Brooks told People last year. “I want to see those people that are at the end of their rope and somehow have found a light through music. Somehow, they’ve made a friend at a concert that changes their life and forever they are best buddies — that sort of thing. I want to see people leaving that stadium loving each other more than when they got there.”