The 2018 CMT Artists of the Year event was all about celebrating women in country music -- not just contemporaries, but those who helped pave the way for the night's Artist of the Year honorees. Carrie Underwood and her Cry Pretty 360 tourmates, Maddie and Tae and Runaway June, did just that with an incredible medley that honored female country artists throughout history.
Underwood kicked off the tribute with Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," adding in a knowing "Am I right, ladies?" after singing "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman." She then joined in with Maddie and Tae and Runaway June for a few bars of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" before Maddie and Tae took the reigns on The Judds' 1986 "Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain."
The artists moved on to salute the country hits of '90s, a decade when women had more equal representation on radio, running through Martina McBride's "Independence Day," Faith Hill's "Wild One," Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman." They then brought it all full circle with Underwood's own 2018 hit "Cry Pretty."
Read More: 20 Best Country Albums by Female Artists
The medley embodied the theme of the night, which showcased how women can lift one another up and the importance of representation in the country music industry. The performances and presentation were interspersed with clips of each of the night's honorees talking about the female artists that have inspired them, from Dolly Parton and Barbara Mandrell to '90s country icons like Patty Loveless, Martina McBride and Shania Twain.
The evening also included a musical tribute to Loretta Lynn, who was honored as Artist of a Lifetime during the ceremony. Martina McBride performed Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough," while Dierks Bentley and Sheryl Crow teamed up for the Lynn and Conway Twitty duet "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man."
Lynn was unable to attend the event due to an illness. The country legend shared on social media that she was under the weather but "there in spirit."