Nelson and Parton are both featured on the track, along with 28 of the genre's classic and contemporary stars. As Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild said as she spoke on behalf of the Video of the Year winners, "We're so happy to celebrate country music. What a rich heritage we have."
Indeed, the trio of songs chosen for the all-star ode are beloved favorites for country fans around the world—but even if you've heard them 100 times, you might not know how each came to fruition. Check out these little-known facts about the three country classics.
John Denver almost lost "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Johnny Cash.
The song that effectively launched John Denver's career and made him an international star wasn't exactly his to begin with.
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" was crafted by Bill Danoff and his then-girlfriend and songwriting partner, Taffy Nivert. They intended to sell the song to Johnny Cash, but when Denver—a friend of Danoff's—heard an early version of it, he insisted on recording it himself. He released it as a single in 1971, and the rest was history: it was a hit on the country charts, became a staple of Denver's live shows, and even became the official state anthem for West Virginia.
Willie Nelson wrote "On The Road Again" on an air sickness bag.
Willie Nelson's 1980 ode to the road was actually written high in the sky. More specifically, it was written on the back of an air sickness bag on an airplane. Nelson was on a flight with director Jerry Schatzberg and producer Sydney Pollack, who requested that Nelson write a song for the film Honeysuckle Rose, in which he was to star.
"I think Sydney said, 'Can it be something about being on the road?' It just started to click in my head," Nelson recounted to The Uncut in 2014. "I said, 'You mean like, 'On the road again, I can't wait to get on the road again?' They said, 'That's great. What's the melody?' I said, 'I don't know yet.'"
He eventually figured it out, of course, and "On The Road Again" became a bona fide classic.
Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" was about a business breakup.
"I Will Always Love You" is perhaps the quintessential love song, but Dolly Parton's inspiration for it was actually a professional breakup, not a romantic one.
Parton had come to national attention in the late '60s alongside her duet partner Porter Wagoner, appearing on his weekly TV show and even recording several albums with him. But their relationship soured when Parton told her longtime producer and mentor that she wanted to leave his show to pursue a solo career. She ended her long-standing partnership with him in 1974, and wrote "I Will Always Love You" as a goodbye.
"How am I gonna make him understand how much I appreciate everything, but that I have to go?" Parton asked herself, as she later recalled in an interview with The Tennessean. "So I went home, and I thought, 'Well, what do you do best? You write songs.' So, I sat down and I wrote this song."
Covering these three cherished songs is a big undertaking for anyone, but in the case of "Forever Country," the 30 singers chosen couldn't have been better suited for the task.
Congrats to all the artists involved: Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Randy Travis, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church, Ronnie Milsap, Charley Pride, Dierks Bentley, Trisha Yearwood, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Willie Nelson, Brooks & Dunn, Alabama, Brett Eldredge, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood, and Dolly Parton.
Learn more about the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS.com.