WATCH: Garth Brooks Gets Emotional at Kennedy Center Honors

Garth Brooks

Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame Garth Brooks performs at the 2011 Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards.

In a sneak peak of the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors, Kelly Clarkson’s performance of Garth Brooks’ song, “The Dance,” moved the acclaimed country singer and 2021 honoree to tears.

In a clip obtained by Entertainment Tonight, Brooks admits, “I’m already wishing I had a mask on ‘cause I could be doing this,” while covering his face. “And then when the whole band kicks in, it’s just so pretty. That woman is a true friend to a song and she’s amazing.”

Clarkson was one of the celebrities surprising Brooks, who was being honored alongside Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Midori and Dick Van Dyke. She revealed at the event that she chose to sing “The Dance” because of the “special moment” she shared with Brooks on her show, The Kelly Clarkson Show. The Voice coach shared the country classic has been helpful during her divorce from ex Brandon Blackstock.

“I couldn’t quite nail down the feeling. I was like, well I’m not like you don’t want to crap on it, like, you don’t want to say that didn’t count or matter, but you don’t know what to put in it because it didn’t work out like you wanted,” the American Idol explained on her show. “So, anyway, I kid you not, I was listening to my playlist and ‘The Dance’ came on. And I was like, ‘No, that’s the thing. That’s it.'”

Speaking about the moment in a Kennedy Center interview, Clarkson added, “It’s just how a song can impact you as a child and you love it and it’s just so beautiful, but it has a whole other life for the same child that grew up as an adult. And it has a whole other meaning and a whole other passion for it. And that’s the sign of an amazing song and an amazing storyteller. And that he is.”

“The Dance” was originally featured on Brooks’ self-titled debut album in 1989.

Brooks Previously Performed for Other Kennedy Center Honorees

While Brooks is being honored this year, he is no stranger to the Kennedy Center Honors. He has performed in tribute to previous honorees: James Taylor, Billy Joel and Loretta Lynn.

“I’ve got to be here, thank goodness, a number of times for other artists,” the Billboard Music Icon Award winner revealed in a Kennedy Center clip. “And it’s always really a zoo, it’s moving really quick, lots of people. And this one was exactly the opposite. Just real, slow it down. And sincerity’s always part of this, but I got to tell you, maybe I’m just being prejudiced, but this one was so sincere.”

Taylor returned the favor, singing “The River.” Gladys Knight and Jimmie Allen also performed, with the latter singing Brooks’ signature song, “Friends in Low Places.”

Brooks continued, “What was really cool is if you do this for a living, you’re also a fan, right? So what I’ve missed in the pandemic is going to concerts. And tonight, I got to sit out there in the crowd, stand up, sing along. I have never, ever got to be in the crowd for ‘Friends in Low Places,’ ever. This was fantastic.”

Jason Aldean, Bradley Cooper, John Travolta and Wayne Gretzky were also presenters celebrating the singer.

The 2020 Kennedy Center Honors Were Supposed to Film in December

This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be unlike any other – pushed from its original filming date of December 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of being filmed in the classic Opera House stage at the Washington theater, this year’s festivities will be spread throughout its campus, featuring “small, in-person events and re-envisioned virtual tributes,” explains the Kennedy Center website.

“This past year has taught us many things including the need to be flexible and adaptable,” Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said in the event description . “They say necessity is the mother of all invention. The unusual circumstances inspired and opened up new ways for us to present a deeper experience, and hopefully understanding, of the art and lifetime work of our Honorees.”

CBS will air the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors on June 6 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

READ NEXT: Kennedy Center Honors 2021 Performers & Presenters

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