If an alien came to earth inquiring about country music and they watched the Country Music Association Awards, what would they report back? If this production told them everything they needed to know about country music – what would they gather? They could learn a lot by looking at the Entertainer of the Year category.
They might start by reviewing the list of entertainers that have been crowned Entertainer of the Year for the last 42 years:
1967 Eddy Arnold
1968 Glen Campbell
1969 Johnny Cash
1970 Merle Haggard
1971 Charley Pride
1972 Loretta Lynn
1973 Roy Clark
1974 Charlie Rich
1975 John Denver
1976 Mel Tillis
1977 Ronnie Milsap
1978 Dolly Parton
1979 Willie Nelson
1980, ’81 Barbara Mandrell
1982, ’83, ’84 Alabama
1985 Ricky Skaggs
1986 Reba McEntire
1987, ’88 Hank Williams, Jr.
1989, ’90 George Strait
1991, ’92, ’97, ’98 Garth Brooks
1993, ’94 Vince Gill
1995, ’02, ’03 Alan Jackson
1996 Brooks & Dunn
1999 Shania Twain
2000 Dixie Chicks
2001 Tim McGraw
2004, ’06, ’07, ’08 Kenny Chesney
2005 Keith Urban
Looking at sheer numbers, 6 out of the 28 recipients have been female. Maybe men are at the top because women drop out for their family. If this title is driven by tour sales and popularity, that could mean that women are the major consumers, thus pushing men to the top. If these people have been successful, one has to come to the conclusion that it has something to do with money. Country music must be about raking in the dough and seeing who can make the biggest profit at the end of the year, right?
After some investigation one would find the actual roots of country music. It all seems to have started in the Southern United States as an outpouring of the people who enjoyed traditional folk, Celtic, and gospel music. Compare this beginning to the award shows of today and what is found to be entertaining seems to have evolved a great deal. The genres of folk, Celtic, and gospel are woven throughout but not strongly represented. Today the top performers seem to mimic rock more than folk. If it isn’t money and sounding like traditional country – what makes someone Entertainer of the Year?
To answer this you have to investigate the term entertainer. “Culture relates to objects and is a phenomenon of the world; entertainment relates to people and is a phenomenon of life,” Hannah Arendt. The performers we see on stage and listen to on our ipods relate to us. They say and do things we need to hear. This being the case, the Entertainer of the Year must be able to relate the most with his or her fans. They need to be able to move the feet and touch the heart of their listeners. While this may very well relate to higher tour sales, the greatest entertainers don’t seem to be in it for the money. The ones that last the longest tend to be in the music industry for the love of music and how it moves the listening world.
Along with being relate-able, an artist needs to provide agreeable occupation for the mind; diversion; amusement (or so says dictionary.com). Words like pleasure, diversion, and amusement accompany entertainment. So of course the winner of entertainer should be able to do those things while performing their music live or on the cd/mp3. Musical taste is always subjective – you can’t please everyone. But the artists in the category ofEntertainer of the Year tried their darnedest to!
Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks currently hold the most titles for Entertainer of the Year with four titles each.
- Kenny – 30 Top Ten singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, 17 of which reached Number One
- Garth – 11/5/07 named the best selling solo artist in US history, surpassing Presley (but still #2 after the Beatles) after audited sales of 123 million were announced.
Kenny is on the ballot for this year and if he wins, he will have the most awards as Entertainer of the Year. These two men in particular have definitely covered all the categories of what makes you qualified to be Entertainer of the Year. Between soaring tour sales, multiple number one hits, and a highly devoted fan base they continue to keep crowds on their feet and in line for their music. Garth has actually been noted for conducting a twenty-three hour marathon signing autographs at an unannounced visit to Fan Fair in 1996. Anyone that does that is dedicated to his craft and the people that make a musical life possible.
Until those aliens come to investigate the deeper meaning of what it takes to be an entertainer in the Country Music Business – we will continue to learn from those that have come before us. Taking notes from past award winners gives us insight into what it takes to be successful in this industry.
Tune in to the 43rd Annual CMA Awards tomorrow night to see musical history in the making. Weigh in with your votes here on the Nashville Music Buzz… who do YOU think should win???