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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 10: Chris Stapleton and Jennifer Hudson perform during the 55th Annual Country Music Association Awards at Bridgestone Arena on November 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Every award show sells itself on “once in a lifetime” performances that “you’ll never forget.” Of course, the truth is most performances at award shows are great, but they don’t quite rise to those heights. That wasn’t the case for tonight’s collaboration with Grammy/Oscar/Emmy-winning singer/actress Jennifer Hudson with Chris Stapleton at the CMAs.

The duo – with Hudson doing most of the singing, and Stapleton playing guitar with and singing backing vocals – did two songs from Aretha Franklin’s repertoire. Hudson played Franklin in the Aretha biopic, Respect, released earlier this year.

They started out with “Night Life,” a song written by Willie Nelson, which Franklin recorded for her 11th album, 1967’s Aretha Arrives. They then played the gospel classic “You Are My Sunshine,” which dates back to 1939 (and which Franklin also recorded for Aretha Arrives.

The performance brought seemingly everyone in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to their feet for a transcendent moment that was one of the best tv performances we’ve ever seen, along with Hudson’s performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at the 2012 Grammys (the day after Houston’s death) and Stapleton’s performance with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMAs.

Watch the performance below.

Chris Stapleton – 40 Top Songs