Tracy Chapman Becomes First Black Songwriter to Win CMA Awards' Song of the Year

Tracy Chapman
Trisha Leeper/WireImage

The 'Fast Car' singer thanked Luke Combs and her fans for making the song a hit 35 years after its debut.

At the 2023 CMA Awards in Nashville on Wednesday night, Tracy Chapman made history by becoming the first Black songwriter to clinch the Song of the Year award.

Luke Combs' rendition of Chapman's classic, "Fast Car," secured her the nomination and eventual victory, marking a significant moment 35 years after the song's original release. Although the notoriously reclusive Chapman couldn't be present, presenter Sara Evans shared a statement from the groundbreaking artist.

"I regret not being able to join you all tonight," Chapman conveyed in her message. "It's a genuine honor for my song to receive recognition anew after 35 years since its debut. Gratitude to the CMAs, and a special thank you to Luke and all the 'Fast Car' fans."

Combs' rendition of "Fast Car" soared to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this summer and kicked off the CMA Awards evening with victories in both the song and single of the year categories.

When asked about Chapman, Combs expressed his gratitude and shared the personal significance of the song in his life.

"This song has been a constant throughout my entire life, reminding me of moments with my dad. It's the song I'll play for my son, and it will undoubtedly be part of my own history. To think that it will now be synonymous with me is just insane, considering how much it has meant to me. So, I just want to say thank you and congratulations to her," Combs said.

In his acceptance speech, Combs extended further appreciation to Chapman, hailing "Fast Car" as "one of the best songs of all time." Originally released in 1988, the timeless track earned Chapman a GRAMMY for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance the following year.

Combs spoke to Billboard backstage about his win and how much it meant to him. He discussed how "Fast Car" was one of the first songs he remembers hearing and it took him a long time to learn and sing the song. 

The 2023 CMA Awards, hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, aired live on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Check here for the full list of the night's big winners! The 57th annual ceremony is now available to stream on Hulu.