In a historic and long-overdue triumph, Tracy Chapman has become the first Black songwriter to win the Country Music Association (CMA) Song of the Year award. The accolade was awarded for Chapman’s enduring folk ballad, “Fast Car,” originally released 35 years ago. The recognition comes on the heels of Luke Combs’ chart-topping rendition of the song, which not only reached Number Two on the Hot 100 but also secured the Single of the Year award at this year’s CMA Awards.
Luke Combs expressed his gratitude to Chapman during his acceptance speech, recognizing her for writing “one of the best songs of all time.” Combs further shared that “Fast Car” was his first favorite song, dating back to when he was just 4 years old. The song’s impact on a new generation of fans is evident in its unexpected resurgence, marking it as an unlikely blockbuster hit across genres.
Chapman, known for her reclusive nature, was not present at the CMA Awards held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. However, a prepared statement from the groundbreaking songwriter was read by co-presenter Sara Evans. In her statement, Chapman expressed her honor at the newfound recognition of “Fast Car” after more than three decades since its debut. She extended her gratitude to the CMAs, as well as to Luke Combs and all the fans of the song.
The significance of Tracy Chapman’s win goes beyond the celebration of a timeless song; it underscores a notable milestone in the 56-year history of the CMA Awards. Never before has a Black songwriter, whether male or female, claimed the Song of the Year honor until Tracy Chapman’s groundbreaking achievement. This historic moment serves as a reminder of the strides that still need to be made in fostering inclusivity within the country music industry.
Combs’ rendition of the song, featured on his “Gettin’ Old” album, reached Number One on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart earlier in the summer. This achievement also solidified Tracy Chapman as the first Black woman to have the sole songwriting credit on a Number One country hit.
Chapman’s groundbreaking win adds her name to a select group of Black women who have made history in country music, challenging preconceived notions and breaking barriers. As the industry continues to evolve, Tracy Chapman’s triumph serves as inspiration for aspiring Black songwriters and artists, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and celebrating diverse voices within the country music landscape.
Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” has not only stood the test of time but has now etched its place in history as the catalyst for a groundbreaking moment at the CMA Awards. As the industry strives for greater inclusivity, Chapman’s win is a step forward, highlighting the significance of acknowledging and honoring the contributions of Black artists and songwriters in the country music genre.