Country stars gather for CMT special honoring everyday heroes amid protests, COVID-19 pandemic

With the annual "CMT Music Awards" postponed, some of the biggest country artists in the business gathered virtually for a TV special that highlighted the bravery of essential workers in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Wednesday's "CMT Celebrates Our Heroes" TV special largely didn't address the protests and rallies for racial justice that have gripped the country in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody last week in Minneapolis.

The TV special started with a simple text introduction: “As social unrest grips the nation, we want to say thank you to those taking action against injustice. There are heroes all around us."

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The special aired in place of their CMT Music Awards, which have been postponed to October. It appeared to contain pre-recorded performances and dedications from artists like Carrie Underwood, Luke Combs and Darius Rucker and was focused on good news stories of health care workers, educators, first responders and more.

This combination photo shows Miranda Lambert performing at the 2017 CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn. on June 8, 2017, from left, Darius Rucker performing at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn., on June 14, 2015 and Luke Combs performing at the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 7, 2019. CMT is saluting heroes on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic with a star filled TV special featuring Combs, Lambert, Rucker, Florida Georgia Line and others.

This combination photo shows Miranda Lambert performing at the 2017 CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn. on June 8, 2017, from left, Darius Rucker performing at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn., on June 14, 2015 and Luke Combs performing at the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 7, 2019. CMT is saluting heroes on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic with a star filled TV special featuring Combs, Lambert, Rucker, Florida Georgia Line and others. (AP Photo)

Blake Shelton spoke about the pandemic especially hurting lower-income people who are food insecure, including children who rely on school lunches before highlighting the city of Kodiak, Alaska, and its school district for delivering meals to children.

Underwood, whose sisters are teachers and whose mother is a former teacher, noted how educators have come up with creative solutions to keep kids learning even as classes went online. “Now more than ever we recognize what an important and difficult job they have,” Underwood said.

Luke Combs sang his virus-inspired song called “Six Feet Apart” after acknowledging that he misses being able to sing for people.

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Country singer Thomas Rhett in a black and white video sang his inspirational song “Be a Light,” which included the timely lyrics: “In a world full of hate, be a light."

Country duo Brothers Osborne joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on a video conference call to surprise their hometown heroes, a nurse and a local organizer helping to provide needy families with food. Darius Rucker performed “Forever and Ever, Amen,” in front of projected images of couples getting married during the pandemic.

Miranda Lambert noted most of her family were in law enforcement, including her husband, who worked for New York Police Department, before playing her song “Bluebird” on the back porch of her house.

Actress Scarlett Johansson said first responders stay calm under pressure, but nothing could have prepared them for dealing with the pandemic.

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“When most of us are being told to stay at home, police, EMTs and firefighters go out and face this head-on,” said Johansson. “That takes courage and strength.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.