A vocalist unlike any before her. A steadfast leader of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. A titan of the entertainment industry. The singing-songwriting pride of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.
Patsy Cline, Dr. Paul T. Kwami, Ed Hardy and John Prine — representatives from four corners of Nashville’s vast entertainment legacy — entered the Music City City Walk of Fame at a sun-soaked downtown ceremony Monday morning.
A cast of notable Nashville noisemakers — Trisha Yearwood for Cline, CeCe Winans for Kwami, Garth Brooks for Hardy and Brenda Lee for Prine — paid tribute to the late inductees before a public star unveiling at Walk of Fame Park. The four new additions bring a total of 97 sidewalk stars to the park that neighbors Bridgestone Arena and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Prine arguably drew the largest audience, with fans of the late Americana legend lining sidewalk barricades, holding up album covers and wearing t-shirts of his mustached smile. Many traveled to Nashville to honor the eclectic “Paradise” penman during a weeklong celebration held by the Prine family — called “You Got Gold” — that coincides with what would’ve been his 76th birthday.
“For those of you [who] loved him, your love was not wasted,” Lee said from the podium. “He felt every vibe of affection that came his way.”
Prine’s wife Fiona Whelan Prine accepted on the singer’s behalf, noting three generations of family from Ireland, Kentucky and Tennessee in the audience.
“John was anything but a star,” Whelan Prine said. “He was a kind, humble, generous, simple, yet complex man.”
Earlier in the ceremony, Yearwood honored Cline with a speech that reminded audience members why — after six decades — her voice continues to offer a beacon for aspiring women in Nashville and beyond. Cline’s daughter Julie Fudge accepted the star for her late mother.
Yearwood summarized Cline’s impact on music with advice she once heard from another trailblazing legend and Cline’s close friend, Loretta Lynn.
“I feel like it’s completely appropriate to quote one of Patsy’s best friends and biggest fans, Loretta Lynn. Loretta’s all over this day,” Yearwood said, nodding to the singer’s death last week at age 90. “Loretta said, ‘You either have to be first, best or different.’ Well, of course, Patsy was all things.”
A month after his death, Kwami received a memorial worthy of a man who for nearly three decades steered Nashville’s original musical export — the Fisk Jubilee Singers — to a Grammy Award win and a 150th-anniversary celebration unlike any seen in Music City before.
Winans celebrated Kwami’s kindness and perfectionism in her dedication, but his son Delali Kwami left onlookers with advice discovered after the leader’s death.
“While cleaning out his office recently, I found a paper that he wrote,” he said. “It concludes with a sentence that I think sums up how and why he was able to operate at a level that solidified his influence in Nashville and beyond: ‘Music is an art to be enjoyed, and whenever it is performed well the reward is great inner-satisfaction.”
And Hardy enters the Walk of Fame posthumously, despite how much he would’ve hated being the center of attention, Brooks said.
He was a behind-the-scenes player who logged years in radio broadcasting and at the helm of cable network Great American Country. He once served as president of the Country Music Association and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. board of directors. He helped launch the Music City Walk of Fame roughly a decade-and-a-half ago. His wife Kim Hardy accepted on his behalf.
“Everybody inside the tent knew Ed Hardy. Everybody inside the tent loved Ed Hardy. Everybody outside the tent? You would’ve loved Ed Hardy,” Brooks said. “You were what he was all about.”