Reba McEntire emphasized the importance of community, family and friendship during a tearful speech accepting her Artist of a Lifetime Award during the 2019 CMT Artists of the Year ceremony on Wednesday night (Oct. 16). As she stood onstage, the singer looked back at her tenure in the music industry.

"I've been in this business for 43 years. I've loved every -- no -- almost every minute of it," McEntire laughingly reflected as she held her trophy. Jokes aside, the iconic singer was clearly emotional as she accepted the honor of Artist of a Lifetime, and her speech became slightly tearful as she thanked fellow honoree Thomas Rhett for using his time at the podium to lead the audience in prayer. Rhett did so in order to support Kane Brown, another country star who lost his close friend and drummer, Kenny Dixon, in a car crash on Saturday (Oct. 12).

"You're special. That took guts," McEntire told Rhett, who was sitting in the crowd alongside his wife, Lauren. "As you said, that might not be aired on this, but He knows. It better be aired. Better make the cut. Because that's what we need in our life, a little more God."

Elsewhere in her speech, McEntire reminisced about early days and the road dog hours she logged alongside Vince Gill, who was on hand to present her with her Artist of a Lifetime trophy.

"I appreciate the people that I got to open the show for, and the ones that guided and taught. That I would get through my show, run back and sign autographs, and then I would sit there and I would watch their shows, because I was learning all the time," she recalled. "Vince and I, we put lots of miles on buses, on planes, golf carts, had fun together, and that's what this business is all about: the people we get to learn from but get to know.

"I'm very blessed to have so many friends," she added.

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