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Billy Ray Cyrus recalls 'cherished' letter George H.W. Bush sent him

The former president let Cyrus know "the judges got it right" when "Achy Breaky Heart" won a top honor at the 1992 CMA Awards.
/ Source: TODAY

If you tried telling former President George H.W. Bush that there was a better song in 1992 than "Achy Breaky Heart," he just wouldn't understand.

Country music star Billy Ray Cyrus shared on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna on Thursday that he'll never forget when Jenna's beloved "Gampy" reached out to him after his signature song won single of the year at the 1992 CMA Awards.

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"Your grandfather sent me a letter when 'Achy Breaky Heart' won the CMA song of the year and it's one of my most cherished possessions," Cyrus said. "And he wrote, 'The judges got it right. We love it.' And it hangs on my wall to this day, it's really a prized possession."

The late president grew up in New England but ultimately settled in Texas, where he began his political career, so he certainly knew his country music. His kind words also came at a time when Cyrus, 59, was struggling mightily to establish a career before his monster hit.

"Just getting a letter from him meant that I didn't live in my car anymore after 10 years of failure and 10 years of chasing this dream," the "Old Town Road" singer said. "I failed way more times than I ever succeeded."

"I failed for a decade of trying everything and actually was down to my last effort, and I had written this song about a Vietnam veteran called 'Some Gave All,' and after 10 years of being told no, a man named Harold Shedd at Mercury Records said yes," he said.

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"Achy Breaky Heart," which was written by Vietnam veteran Don Von Tress, was a last-minute addition to Cyrus' album "Some Gave All" and became one of the inescapable songs of the year in any genre.

"I just felt something special about that song," Cyrus said. "It was some ways similar to 'Old Town Road.' It was again a bridge that could bring people together. People found that they had something more in common than they had different."

The father of pop star Miley Cyrus is still going strong all these years later as he recently released the EP "The Singin' Hills Sessions — Mojave" and duetted with country legend Dolly Parton for the song "Christmas Where We Are" on her new Christmas album.

"She and I kind of have a blend that really seems to work together," Cyrus said.

Cyrus said the song is about staying socially distanced during the pandemic, and "about staying positive, staying safe, loving each other and being happy for the holidays."