Luke Combs took home the CMA Award for single of the year Wednesday night for his cover of “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, who became the unlikely winner of song of the year for a tune she wrote in 1988.
“I want to thank Tracy Chapman for writing one of the greatest songs of all time,” the 33-year-old North Carolina singer said as he accepted the first trophy handed out during the ABC telecast. “It’s the first favorite song I ever had.”
Chapman, who won two Grammys for “Fast Car” in 1989, was not at the ceremony at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, but said in a statement that it’s “truly an honor for my song to be recognized 35 years after its debut.”
The night’s top nominee Lainey Wilson won four awards including album of the year for her “Bell Bottom Country,” and female vocalist of the year. Ahead of the telecast, she and HARDY were named as winners in the musical event of the year category, for “Wait in the Truck.”
She’s up for nine awards overall, including entertainer of the year along with Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wallen and Combs.
Combs later took the stage to perform “Where the Wild Things Are,” and Wilson gave a rendition of her “Wildflowers and Wild Horses” that looked like it came from a classic Hollywood Western.
Rapper-turned-singer Jelly Roll, who earlier this year topped the CMT Music Awards, opened Wednesday night’s telecast with a performance of his hit “Need a Favor,” along with surprise guest Wynonna Judd, then went on to win best new artist.
“There is something poetic about a 39-year-old man winning new artist of the year,” he said from the stage. “What’s in front of you is so much more important than what’s behind you.”
Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning are hosting the ceremony, which will feature a musical tribute to the late singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.
Old Dominion won vocal group of the year and, in what is becoming a CMA tradition, Brothers Osborne won duo of the year for the sixth time.
“We’re shocked, honestly, every year this happens,” T.J. Osborne said.