You know how the old saying goes: You get by with a little help from your friends, and that’s exactly what Jason Aldean had when he paid tribute to Tom Petty at the CMT Artists of the Year celebration on Wednesday.
The six-time Artist of the Year honoree took the stage to perform, and he picked a particularly poignant song choice for the evening: Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
Not only was the performance a nod to the late great rocker, but it also bears special significance for Aldean.
Fellow honoree Luke Bryan explained, “Jason gave a lot of thought about what he wanted to play on this show, and he kept coming back to a song from a hero of his, and many of ours here tonight. It’s a song Jason played for years coming up in the clubs, and tonight some of his friends want to join him.”
We’re willing to wager there wasn’t a dry eye in the house that night, either.
The song has become something of a mantra for Aldean as of late, who was headlining the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 when a gunman opened fire. Aldean and his crew made it to safety, but 59 people died and more than 500 were injured in the mass shooting.
Aldean played “I Won’t Back Down” for the first time following the tragic event during a surprise Saturday Night Live performance earlier this month.
Prior to his encore performance of the inspiring track at the CMT Artists of the Year celebration in Nashville, Aldean explained the salience of the song choice to ET‘s Sophie Schillaci.
Said Aldean, “It is such a perfect song for everything that has been happening in the last couple months. The strength and fortitude of country fans is unbelievable. We wanted to acknowledge that, so tonight is really all about them.”