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CMAs: Tracy Chapman Becomes First Black Woman To Win Song of the Year Award

BY Abena Dzaka November 9, 2023 3:59 PM EDT
Photo Credit: File:Tracy Chapman 2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons Images

History has been made as Tracy Chapman has been recognized as the first black woman to win Song of the Year in the highly-respected Country Music Awards CMAs.

Black musicians have historically been marginalized in the country music industry, despite having invented it. Similar to other subgenre such as rock, jazz, and pop music, African and African-American traditions are deeply ingrained in every aspect of country music, including vocal and instrumental methods, repertory, and instruments.

Charley Pride, one of the notable black artiste in the country music industry for well over half a century. With his ability to work his way around country music, the Mississippi-born sharecropper turned All-Star Negro League pitcher amassed over forty top ten Billboard Country chart hits (including the 1971 hit Kiss An Angel Good Morning) and gained international recognition.

In this day and age, country music boasts a multitude of artistes whose unwavering dedication to the genre is finally being acknowledged, due to the sheer dedication of country music icons like Willie Jones, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, Mickey Guyton, and Kane Brown who have all achieved great success in the country music industry.

This transformation has become even more evident with Tracy Chapman winning big at the CMA Awards on Wednesday, capping her 2023 comeback.

Luke Combs’ rendition of her 1988 hit song, Fast Car won Song of the Year early in the show.

Chapman won since that category specifically honors the songwriter. The Messenger has been informed by the CMA that this was a historic victory, the first time in the 57-year history of the awards for a black woman to win a CMA award in any category.

Rolling Stone claims that Chapman also made history by being the first black songwriter to win Song of the Year, regardless of gender.

The singer-songwriter released a statement following the remarkable feat: “I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all tonight. Having my song recognized again after 35 years of release is a true honor. I express my gratitude to the CMAs and especially to Luke and all of the Fast Car fans.”

The cover was nominated for Single of the Year, which went to Combs, the song’s producers, and the song’s mixing engineer. The win came shortly after the cover had already won in the other category.

In his acceptance speech, Combs stated: “First and foremost, I want to thank Tracy Chapman for writing one of the best songs of all time. I simply recorded it since I enjoyed the song. At the age of four, it was my very first favorite song.”

Combs’ rendition of the 35-year-old song has experienced significant success this year in the pop landscape.

The updated version reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, four places higher than the peak position of Chapman’s original version, and topped the US Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts.

As the song’s sole writer, Chapman made history by becoming the first black woman to ever top the Country Airplay chart.