Clarkson previously shared how the song helped her through her divorce.

By Andrea Towers
June 03, 2021 at 09:55 AM EDT
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This Sunday, the Kennedy Center will air its annual celebration of distinguished figures in the performing arts, who have made a lasting impact on American culture. Among the honorees is country star Garth Brooks, who was paid tribute to with emotional performance of his song "The Dance" from Kelly Clarkson.

Clarkson previously explained why the song is important to her, revealing how Brooks' lyrics helped her through her divorce from her ex-husband Brandon Blackstock when the iconic country singer visited her talk show last year.

Kelly Clarkson and Garth Brooks at the Kennedy Center Honors
Kelly Clarkson and Garth Brooks
| Credit: CBS (2)

"There's so much shame and guilt," Clarkson told Brooks, who is also a divorcee. "I couldn't quite nail down the feeling. Like you don't want to crap on it, like, you don't want to say that [relationship] doesn't count or matter, but you don't know what to put in it because it didn't work out like you wanted. 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.'"

Brooks' tune was so formative, it inspired Clarkson to pen her own "therapeutic" song, which will appear on her upcoming album. But because of the emotional impact Clarkson associates with "The Dance," it meant that performing it for her friend came with more than a little anxiety.

"I was texting Trisha Yearwood before the show and then I go on stage and I saw them and like all of a sudden, I am the sweatiest human on planet earth. And I got a little nervous, and I don't get nervous singing," Clarkson told Entertainment Tonight.

As it turns out, she didn't have to worry. "That woman is a true friend to a song. She's amazing," Brooks said after hearing Clarkson's performance and tearing up at her rendition.

Along with Brooks, the honorees for the 43rd Annual Kennedy Centers Honors include Dick Van Dyke, Midori, Joan Baez, and Debbie Allen. The ceremony, which was recorded last month, will air on Sunday, June 6 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and also features performances by Derek Hough, Vanessa Hudgens, Pentatonix, Gladys Knight, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Allen, and Yo-Yo Ma.

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