by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)
We’re used to seeing Black musical artists honored regularly on the Grammy Awards, the American Music Awards, the MTV Awards, and, of course, the BET Awards. But this year, you can find several Black performers on the 54th annual CMA (Country Music Association) Awards, to be aired on ABC starting at 8P ET tonight.
Not that Black performers have never been on the CMAs before. Just last year rapper Lil Nas X won an award for his Billy Ray Cyrus collaboration “Old Town Road.” In 2016, the Chicks (fka The Dixie Chicks) shocked the audience with an incredible live performance with fellow Texan Beyoncé of her song “Daddy Lessons” (see it here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85Ksi-uzuIg). But there have been many years where the closest the CMAs have gotten to Blackness was to give awards to Keith “Urban.”
Black country fans actually have three reasons to cheer during this year’s awards. First, newcomer Jimmie Allen is up for Best New Artist. Second, former Hootie & the Blowfish lead vocalist turned country singer Darius Rucker is co-hosting the show with Reba McEntire. Rucker is perhaps the most well-known Black performer in contemporary country music – and previously won the CMA for Best New Artist in 2009.
Most importantly, Rucker will be leading the tribute to this year’s recipient of the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, the legendary Charley Pride.
The aptly named Pride was a symbol of Black pride back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when he was the first major Black country artist to hit the charts. Coming on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, Pride won Male Vocalist of the Year two years running in 1971 and 1972, in addition to also picking up Entertainer of the Year in 1971.
Nominated for Entertainer of the Year six years in a row from 1968 through 1973, Pride, now 86 years old, is a singular figure in country music history, as no Black performer has been nominated even one time since then.
Pride also previously co-hosted the CMA Awards on TV with Glen Campbell in 1975, the only Black host prior to Rucker’s co-hosting duties this year. Pride had 30 #1 country hits and over 50 Top 10 performances, and is perhaps most known for the song “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin.”
Beyond Pride, Rucker and Allen, there are lots of other exciting things happening in country music these days for Black performers, including new female artist Mickey Guyton and recent chart-topper Kane Brown. Earlier this summer, Good Black News offered up “I Can’t Stop Loving You: A Collection of Black Country Music” as an overview of Black country music history.
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Check out the awards tonight – and catch all of the artists we’ve mentioned (and many more) on our playlist!
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