I am not a music guy. I do like to listen to most genres of music from time to time depending on my mood. But most of the time my airpods are pumping out the words to an Audible book. When I hear songs, the artist and song name most often allude me, even though I may be able to poorly belt out the chorus.
Nor am I a fan of music award shows, or any awards shows. So it was unusual to find myself watching and listening to the Country Music Association Awards on ABC the other night. I am usually just not that interested in these often self congratulatory events. Just like with sports, I am turned off by the blatant political blathering that has become part of these programs. But I have been a Reba McEntire fan since seeing her perform at Cheyenne Frontier Days years ago. So as I flipped through channels, and came across her image on the screen, I decided to stop there for a little while. There wasn’t much else worth watching on the tube, anyway.
Shortly after tuning in, Reba and her co-host black singer Darius Rucker honored singer Mac Davis who passed away earlier this year. Their haunting duet of the Mac Davis 1970 hit “In the Ghetto” was a poignant, yet understated reminder of racial division and unrest we are still wrestling with 50 years later. There was no political statement before or after their performance, and none was necessary.
Later in the show, black country music icon Charlie Pride was acclaimed and presented with the CMA lifetime achievement award. Charlie was the first black country music star and made many CFD appearances in his career. To the joy of the live and television audiences the 86 year old came to the mike and sang his signature hit song “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’”. Fittingly, current black country singer Jimmie Allen introduce him and then joined him in song. Pride was very humble in his remarks, thanking the many people who helped him overcome the obstacles he faced early in his career. Again, there was no need for any political statements. The esteem demonstrated for the bigger than life star was enough.
Toward the end of the show, Maren Morris accepted her gigantic award as female vocalist of the year. In her acceptance speech she recognized several black female country artists saying: “There are so many amazing black women that pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre,” the singer said. Another direct and positive way to acknowledge and encourage without being politically caustic.
Music is a great equalizer. Who cares about the color, sexual orientation, gender, or politics of the artist? When I hear a song I like, I don’t care. Most of the time I couldn’t even tell you who the artist is, let alone anything about them.
The CMA awards also proved we can still enjoy live music during a pandemic. They switched to a smaller venue and limited the number of people in attendance. Social distancing and other appropriate precautions were observed. Long boom microphones were used for live interviews so the masked up crews could remain as safe as possible. Artists and others who tested positive for COVID-19 or were around someone who had, did not attend. Some, like Keith Urban, performed via video from other locations.
The awards show was uplifting and supportive of black artists. The message was constructive, hopeful, and in no way derisive.
The Country Music Association, and the artists, showed us how to communicate about the issues we face with class and without creating more division.