The River's Badge

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

CMA at 50 - 1987...and Holly Dunn


Holly Dunn passed away this past Monday, November 14. She was 59; younger than me. Those things shouldn't happen.

I liked Holly's recordings -- she was a soprano, whereas I was always more drawn to more earthy voices like Patsy Cline's -- but Holly Dunn was country and that's what mattered. I've always liked my country to be...well, country...call me crazy; and 1987 was that kind of year. Holly fit right in.

At the CMA's that year, Holly won the Horizon Award, the award given to best new artist. She deserved it.




Holly wrote, produced, and performed her own songs, which was, in 1987, let's say unusual. As a pseudo-songwriter, I know how monumental that is.

“I think this gives me a real legitimacy, a genuineness,” she told The Associated Press in 1990. “I’m not just up there standing where they tell me to stand, singing what they tell me to sing.”  (source)

In 2003 Holly retired from recording, just like that. She said that country no longer wanted what she had to offer, and she was right. Country music gave up the ghost somewhere around 2001 and it's never come back. I once thought it would -- everything being cyclical -- but I was wrong. It never came back. Nineteen eighty-seven was a watershed year. Let's revisit it...

Horizon Award
T. Graham Brown
The O'Kanes
Restless Heart
Sweethearts of the Rodeo
Holly Dunn 

Female Vocalist of the Year
Emmylou Harris
Kathy Mattea
Rosanne Cash
Dolly Parton
Reba McEntire

There was no denying that the late eighties was Reba's time. It was before she went off on her costume-changing frenzy (although I never actually witnessed it in concert, it made all the popular publications, like People Magazine) and while she still had the frizzy perm and an iota of country in her blood. Like this:

If I'd still been a CMA member in 1987, though, I would have voted for this:


You tell me which song holds up better. It's not even a fair contest.

Male Vocalist of the Year
George Strait
Randy Travis
George Jones
Ricky Skaggs
Hank Williams, Jr.

I'm not going to quibble with this one, although my heart lies with George. Randy Travis was and is a voice beyond measure.




Single of the Year
The Right Left Hand - George Jones (I have no recollection whatsoever of this song)
Walk The Way The Wind Blows - Kathy Mattea
All My Ex's Live In Texas - George Strait
Forever And Ever, Amen - Randy Travis
Can't Stop My Heart From Lovin' You - The O'Kanes

Nineteen eighty-seven was a great year! I'd forgotten how good it was. In the interest of diversity and fairness, I'm going to include one of the singles that didn't win:


Song of the Year (award to the songwriter)
Forever And Ever, Amen - Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz
All My Ex's Live In Texas - Lyndia Shafer and Sanger D. Shafer
Can't Stop My Heart From Lovin' You - Kieran Kane and Jamie O'Hara
Daddy's Hands - Holly Dunn
On The Other Hand - Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz

To be different, here's:


Vocal Group of the Year
Asleep At The Wheel
Exile
Restless Heart
Alabama
The Judds

This is a tough category. I would have given it to The Judds in 1985, and maybe they did win it then. I don't have photographic memory! (A-Ha! They did! I just checked!)  I love The Judds, especially for their early hits, but sadly, I find that Restless Heart never won the vocal group of the year award. That's shameful. Since they never won, I guess I can pick any song, from any year, I want. I pick this one:


Randy Travis won Album of the Year (naturally); fiddler Johnny Gimble was Instrumentalist of the Year; Vocal Duo of the Year was a bust (for the record, it was Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White); the Music Video of the Year was "My Name is Bocephus" by Hank Williams, Jr.; which leads me to the strangest award of the night:

Entertainer of the Year
The Judds
Reba McEntire
George Strait
Randy Travis
Hank Williams, Jr.

I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps it was a nod to an era that was ending. I'm not proud of it, but the only concert I ever walked out on was Hank's. I liked him once; thus, I bought a ticket to see him. This, unfortunately, was the time when Junior decided to "become his own man". The people who liked Lynryd Skynyrd, I'm sure, loved this concert. I hated it. Hank's thing was writing and singing songs about...Hank. Listen to any of his songs, and they're all egocentric. All good, if you like that sort of thing.

I checked Hank's discography, trying to discern which record, exactly, earned him the award. I'm truly perplexed. So, I'm just going to guess this one...




So, 1987 was a tremendous year in country music -- not necessarily a tremendous year for the CMA's. They got some things wrong and some things right. But I'm sure it was hard, with so much talent to pick from.

And God bless you, Holly Dunn. Thank you for the music.














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