Kelly Clarkson had nothing but love for Kennedy Center honoree Reba McEntire during this year's 41st annual ceremony
In the broadcast, which was taped on Dec. 2 from the famed Washington, D.C. venue and aired Wednesday night on CBS, Clarkson paid tribute to her mother-in-law and idol with a powerful cover of McEntire’s 1990 hit, “Fancy.”
Before belting out the country classic, Clarkson, 36, held back tears as she spoke to McEntire, 63.
“I’ve been a fan of Reba since I was a little girl. Her voice has always felt nostalgic for me. Even as an adult, there’s something about her tone and her storytelling that just feels like home,” Clarkson said.
“Sometimes when we meet our heroes, it doesn’t always pan out how you hope. But meeting Reba — being friends with her, and eventually becoming family — has been one of the highlights of my life, truly,” Clarkson added. “So thank you so much for listening to me vent as an artist. Thank you so much for comforting me on the phone through my tears, like a friend. And thank you for being a really rad grandma for my kids.”
Joked Clarkson, “I love you so much. I hope you enjoy this song – don’t judge me!”
McEntire appeared to be thrilled with Clarkson’s performance, giving the American Idol champ a standing ovation. “Thank you,” Clarkson said. “I hope I did you justice!”
Clarkson and McEntire have performed together many times, including the 2007 duet version of Clarkson’s “Because of You.” A year later, the duo hit the road together for a 2008 tour.
The two became family in 2013, when the “Since U Been Gone” singer married Brandon Blackstock. He’s the stepson of manager and guitarist Narvel Blackstock, whom McEntire wed in 1989 and divorced in 2015.
Together, Clarkson and Brandon share son Remington “Remy” Alexander, 2½, and daughter River Rose, 4, as well as Brandon’s kids from a previous relationship, son Seth, 11, and daughter Savannah, 16. And despite her split from Brandon’s father, McEntire has remained connected to Clarkson’s family — though between television shows like The Voice, hosting gigs, concerts and live appearances, time together is hard to come by.
“I don’t ever see the grandkids!” McEntire joked to PEOPLE in April. “It was a lot better when everybody was not so busy, but I’ve got seven grandchildren, so they’re scattered all over the country and busy doing stuff. But I love them.”
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Aside from McEntire, the 2018 Kennedy Center honorees included Cher, Philip Glass, Wayne Shorter, and the creative team behind Hamilton (including its star and Tony-winning composer/lyricist, Lin-Manuel Miranda).