The 46th Annual Country Music Association Awards are now in the history books, and I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on the show. Musically, I thought it was one of the better telecasts of recent years. For once, the producers didn’t feel like we had to include a lot of artists from outside the format to show how “cool” and “hip” we were. Collaborations are great, as are many of those artists, but we’re just fine on our own.
Honestly, there was only one quibble I had with the show. It came in the last hour when the CMA bestowed a Career Achievement Award to Willie Nelson, and announced the award would bear his namesake in future years. First of all, Willie Nelson is a legend. No argument from me there. But, what makes this award any different from the Country Music Hall of Fame? In researching it, I don’t see any difference. Willie was inducted into the Hall in 1993. But, the Hall has ceased being a part of the CMA Awards show the past few years – something I consider to be a travesty.
For most Country artists, the Hall of Fame is the crowning achievement on a career that has enjoyed huge impact upon the genre. Over the next few years, names such as Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Skaggs, the Oak Ridge Boys, and others like them are expected to be added to the list. They deserve their time in the spotlight – just like George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson before them. Their fans deserve to be a part of that moment as well. With only 200 or so seats available at the Hall’s Induction Ceremony, fans could watch people enter the red carpet – but could not witness the moment that they have been a part of since day one. That, my friends, is just wrong.
The Willie Nelson Career Achievement Award is a great idea. But, if the award is going to be given to acts already in the Hall of Fame, the CMA needs to re-think this. I think it’s better for those artists mentioned above to have their time in the spotlight than those already in the Hall of Fame. If it’s going to go to acts like Jones, Haggard, Loretta, and I am not saying they are not deserving….but so are the upcoming inductees. They have worked no less harder for their moment in the sun, and deserve it just as much.
This is not a knock on the CMA. I am sure they have to think each performance slot out very carefully due to ratings. Running the CMA Awards can be a thankless job sometimes – just like Pete Fisher in his role at the Grand Ole Opry, you’re not going to please everyone. Either you’re spending too much time celebrating the past or ignoring it. But, I think this is something the CMA really needs to look at. I would much rather see an artist like the Oak Ridge Boys or Kenny Rogers get their five-six minutes of national TV than an artist who has received it before. It’s not about an artist being greater than or less than, it’s about giving equal time to the newer legends. In any case, it’s just something to think about…..
by Jessica Northey
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