Vince Gill is undoubtedly the most famous fixture of the CMA Awards, standing as one of the winningest performers in the show’s history and also serving as its host for 11 years. He’s steered the ship of the ceremony with grace and a good dose of wit, while also featuring as a popular victor in numerous top categories, but his fourth and final Song of the Year triumph in 1996 is the most memorable.
Gill’s deeply personal “Go Rest High On That Mountain,” a tribute to the late Keith Whitley and his own brother, who had passed in 1993, lacked the radio success of many of his previous offerings, only reaching #12 on the singles chart in late 1995. But the stirring ballad about the two heartbreaking event struck a chord with CMA voters, earning a nomination for Song of the Year. In a surprise, the song surpassed fellow nominees “Check Yes Or No” by George Strait and “Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain, both #1 singles.
Gill outwardly showed his emotions when accepting the award, only able to simply say “Thank you” and that it was too difficult to produce a speech given the grief associated with the song. His speech showed the tremendous impact of a single country song, and this effect is produced by Gill like few artists are able to do. His 18 CMA awards are the second most in CMA history, only trailing the 19 trophies earned by Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn.
Vince Gill & Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You” (1995):