Cody Johnson Pays Tribute to Willie Nelson With Special Performance At 2023 ACM Awards

The country superstar performed “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” in celebration of Nelson’s 90th birthday. 


Andrew Wendowski


Posted on May 12, 2023

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Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Christopher Polk for PMC

Cody Johnson paid tribute to Willie Nelson with a special performance at the 2023 ACM Awards.

The country superstar performed “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” in celebration of Nelson’s 90th birthday. 

“Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys / Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks / Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such / Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys / ‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone / Even with someone they love,” Johnson sang on the chorus.

“Willie’s One Of My Biggest Heroes”

Ahead of the 2023 ACM Awards, the country superstar revealed that he will honor the legendary Willie Nelson at the coveted awards show with a special performance.

“We’re getting to play a Willie Nelson song. I grew up on Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, so to get to celebrate Willie’s 90th birthday and play one of his songs, it’s a big deal to me,” Johnson told Audacy’s Katie & Company. “Willie’s one of my biggest heroes.”

100% Live Band No Backing Tracks

He also shared that his performance will be 100% with no backing tracks.

“The biggest thing I can tell you about my performance is that it’s my band. It’s live. I pride myself on playing award shows with my band with no tracks,” Johnson added.

Willie Nelson, Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Instagram
Willie Nelson, Cody Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Instagram

Johnson previously joined forces with Willie Nelson for a duet in May of 2021, which is featured on his latest album, Human: The Double Album. Together, the pair released a new version of Nelson’s “Sad Songs And Waltzes.”

“Willie was very gracious to do [the duet], and I got to have a very candid conversation with him, and it was one that meant a lot to me,” Johnson previously admitted in a press release.

YouTube video

Additionally, Cody Johnson was nominated for several awards at the 2023 ACM Awards, including Single Of The Year (“‘Til You Can’t”), Song Of The Year (“‘Til You Can’t”) and Visual Media Of The Year (“‘Til You Can’t”).

2023 ACM Awards

The 58th Academy of Country Music Awards featured performances by Jason Aldean, Jordan Davis, Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Cody Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde, Dolly Parton, Jelly Roll, Ed Sheeran, HARDY, Keith Urban, The War And Treaty, Lainey Wilson, Bailey Zimmerman and more.

Nine awards were announced during the live broadcast, including Entertainer of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Duo of the Group, Group of the Year, Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Song of the Year, and Music Event of the Year. Several winners were also announced ahead of the show.

Additionally, “Country Music’s Party Of The Year” featured a star-studded list of collaborations and unforgettable moments. Reigning ACM Female Artist Of The Year Carly Pearce teamed up with Trisha Yearwood to perform a special medley of in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Yearwood winning Female Artist Of The Year. 

Meanwhile, Cole Swindell joined forces with Jo Dee Messina to deliver an epic performance of the “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” remix and Ashley McBryde took fans to Lindeville with a performance of “Bonfire At Tina’s.”

Gabby Barrett, BRELAND, Brandy Clark, Jordan Davis, Mickey Guyton, Tyler Hubbard, Dustin Lynch, T.J. Osborne, Jon Pardi, Carly Pearce, MacKenzie Porter, Dak Prescott, Emmitt Smith, Tanya Tucker, Keith Urban and Trisha Yearwood served as presenters during the ceremony.

The two-hour awards show streamed live for a global audience across 240+ countries and territories exclusively on Prime Video and the Amazon Music channel on Twitch.

Co-hosted by country music icons Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks, the 2023 ACM Awards broadcasted live from Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas at 7/6c.

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