Through his music, his endless worldwide travel, and a relentless dedication to his craft, he built bridges between countries, between peoples, between cultures….bridges that brought us all closer together and made the world a smaller and more cohesive place. And he paved them all with love….with class….with humility….and with grace.
A few days ago I got an invitation from George Hamilton V to come to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, next Tuesday for the dedication of an interstate bridge that will be named for his father and my longtime friend and fellow Opry star, George Hamilton IV.
As you know, George IV passed away back in 2014. The bridge dedication will take place on what would have been his 79th birthday.
As I read the invitation I couldn’t help but think this might be the most fitting tribute I have ever heard of….a bridge named for a man who built more bridges than anyone in the history of country music.
George was known as The International Ambassador of Country Music. He took our songs to places they had never been heard before. While most of his contemporaries were bouncing around county fairs and honky tonks in rural America, he worked to become a household name on television and in prestigious venues across Canada, in England, Ireland, Scotland, Scandanavia, and beyond. He was the first singer to spread country music behind the Iron Curtain. Where others had once gone with rifles and bombs and hand grenades, George went with a guitar and a smile and a song in his heart.
And now they are naming a downtown bridge in his honor…in his hometown, the place where it all started….a bridge that will serve as a lasting reminder of all he was and all that he stood for.
Thank you, Winston-Salem. You definitely got it right.