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Jason Aldean Plays Powerful Tom Petty Classic in Surprise SNL Performance

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

SNL opened this week with a meaningful tribute

For its first show in the wake of last Sunday's tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Saturday Night Live opened in uncharacteristically poignant fashion: with country star Jason Aldean singing "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty, who died on Monday.

More: Jason Aldean Issues Emotional Plea in Response to Las Vegas Shooting

Instead of filling the cold open with its usual punchy political jokes, SNL gave the stage to Aldean, who was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1 when the shooting began. At last count, 58 people had died and more than 500 others were injured.

"This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I'm struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal," Aldean said prior to his powerful performance.

More: Jason Aldean & the Country Music Community Send Prayers to Las Vegas

"So many people are hurting. There are children, brothers, sisters, parents, friends — they're all part of our family. So I want to say to them, we hurt for you, and we hurt with you," he continued. "But you can be sure we're going to walk through these tough times together, every step of the way. Because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit, it's unbreakable."

"Won't Back Down" proved to be a particularly stirring song choice, both lyrically and in light of the very recent loss of Petty.

More: Jason Aldean's Pregnant Wife Speaks Out After Las Vegas Shooting

Aldean made the announcement earlier this week that he had decided to cancel his shows through the weekend out of respect for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, their families and fans.

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