Kelly Clarkson took the stage at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Monday night (Mar. 7) to honor the evening’s co-host, the great Dolly Parton, with a cover of the country legend’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Clarkson, who gave her performance right before the prestigious entertainer of the year award was given out, delivered an appropriately stripped-down and powerful version of the classic ballad, hitting all the big notes and nailing all the smaller moments. She earned a rave review from Parton herself, who quipped that she “was backstage trying not to cry my false eyelashes off” during the performances. After the performance, Parton stayed onstage to award entertainer of the year to Miranda Lambert — her first win in the category, in her sixth lifetime nomination — though Lambert was not present, and accepted remotely.
Despite only peaking at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982 (in a re-recording of the 1974 original for the soundtrack to her starring vehicle The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) “I Will Always Love You” has gone on to be one of Parton’s most beloved songs, as well as one of her most lucrative — particularly following the Whitney Houston 1992 cover for her own film The Bodyguard, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record 14 weeks.
The 57th Academy of Country Music Awards is produced by MRC Live & Alternative, which is owned by MRC. MRC is a co-owner of Billboard through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.