Classic CMA Awards Moments, #14: Vince Gill, Song of the Year acceptance speech (1996)

#14: Vince Gill
Song of the Year, “Go Rest High on that Mountain”

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):


  1. “Go Rest Hight” is one of the most touching and heartfelt songs of the past 20 years. I saw it performed once live (with Patty Loveless when they were on tour together), and an arena of over 15,000 was as quiet as if no one was there. Vince is a legend, and I’m glad the Hall of Fame got around to honoring him as such.

  2. I’ve been fortunate to hear Vince sing this wonderful song at various funerals and memorials around Nashville, including with Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs at Porter Waggoner’s funeral a year ago.

    Vince was truly being blessed and inspired as he wrote this song. Everytime, he sings it with such conviction and grace.
    It couldn’t have been given to a nicer guy. :-)

  3. The best kept secret is Vince Gill’s guitar playing. He may be one of the best lead guitar/lead vocal guys in the business across all genres. I just saw him again the second time on the Eric Clapton Crossroads tour on Public TV. He was on stage up to the very end. When they panned the audience during his guitar solos there were a countless number of people with their jaws dropped and just staring. Sure he’s good looking and has that smooth voice, but his guitar ability puts him on a higher platform. I wonder who is best: Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley? I have never seen Brad Paisley improvise on stage, but I am sure he does…

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