Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car” was named Song of the Year at the 2023 CMA Awards, 35 years after its release. NBC UNIVERSAL/GETTY 


Luke Combs made country music history at this year’s CMA Awards with his rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” The song, originally released 35 years ago, climbed to Number Two on the Hot 100 this summer, becoming an unexpected blockbuster hit across genres. Combs took home the prestigious Song and Single of the Year awards for his impactful performance. 

Tracy Chapman’s win for Song of the Year is a groundbreaking moment, as it represents the first time in the CMA Awards’ 56-year history that a Black songwriter, whether male or female, has claimed the Song of the Year honor. Chapman’s victory serves as both a personal milestone and a stark reminder of the industry’s ongoing journey toward greater inclusivity. 

Although the reclusive Chapman couldn’t attend the ceremony at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, presenter Sara Evans read a prepared statement on her behalf. In the statement, Chapman expressed gratitude for the recognition of her song after 35 years and extended thanks to the CMAs, Luke Combs, and all the fans of “Fast Car.” 

“I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all tonight,” Chapman wrote. “It’s truly an honor for my song to be newly recognized after 35 years of its debut. Thank you to the CMAs and a special thanks to Luke and all of the fans of ‘Fast Car.’ 

Luke Combs, accepting the Single of the Year award for his recording of “Fast Car,” took a moment to acknowledge Tracy Chapman’s songwriting prowess. He credited Chapman for crafting one of the best songs of all time and shared a personal connection, noting that “Fast Car” was his first favorite song at the age of 4. 

Earlier in the summer, Combs’ rendition of “Fast Car” secured the top spot-on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, making Tracy Chapman the first Black woman to hold the sole songwriting credit on a Number One country hit. 

 This achievement marked a significant moment in the genre, echoing a trend of Black women breaking barriers in country music songwriting, from Donna Summer to Ester Dean and Tayla Parx. 

 Tracy Chapman’s enduring impact and Combs’ heartfelt tribute at the CMA Awards showcase the evolving landscape of country music and the contributions of artists across diverse backgrounds. 

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