Reba McEntire says she enjoys the competition and the struggles of life as a touring and recording musician, but she savors the friendships most. In accepting her CMT Artist of a Lifetime award on Wednesday night (Oct. 16) in Nashville, the legend emphasized that the relationships are what it's all about.

McEntire choked up toward the end of her two-and-a-half-minute speech. While holding the crystal Artist of the Lifetime trophy, she paused to laud Thomas Rhett for taking time to pray for Kane Brown and his family after the death of drummer Kenny Dixon last weekend.

"And that’s what this business is all about," McEntire says. "The people we get to learn from but get to know. I’m very blessed to have so many friends. And I thank God — and Thomas Rhett, God bless you for praying in front — you’re special. You’re special. That took guts."

Vince Gill presented her with the award after nixing the teleprompter in favor of his own heartfelt memories. He then stood to the side as the 64-year-old McEntire spoke.

"I can say I’ve been in this business for 43 years. I’ve loved every — no, almost every minute of it," she shared, drawing a few chuckles. "I appreciate the lessons, the patience — not everybody was patient with me, but the ones who were, I appreciate that very much."

McEntire's moment on the Schermerhorn Symphony Center stage was one of several highlights from the annual awards show in Nashville. All five Artist of the Year winners knew they'd won already, and the music was chosen to celebrate their careers thus far. Dan + Shay, Brown and Rhett were present to accept their awards. Carrie Underwood accepted and performed via satellite and Luke Combs sent a video acceptance speech.

Brown's acceptance speech spurred the most conversation. He dedicated his award to Dixon, a man who'd been with him since the very beginning.

See Photos From the 2019 CMT Artists of the Year Ceremony: