Women in Music 2019

Carrie Underwood & The Surprising History of Female Entertainer of the Year Winners at the CMA Awards

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Carrie Underwood attends the 52nd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 14, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.

If, as many expect, Carrie Underwood steps to the stage at the 53rd annual Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday to pick up the award for entertainer of the year, this will be just the 10th time in CMA history that a female solo artist or group has won that award.

But there's a twist here that's unexpected. There's much more consciousness about female equality than there used to be, so you might expect that back in the '60s and '70s, the winners were almost all men and that the female victories have mostly come in recent years. Surprisingly, it's the other way around.

In the CMA Awards' first 20 years (1967-86), four women won entertainer of the year a total of five times. Loretta Lynn was the first woman to win, in 1972, followed by Dolly Parton in 1978. Barbara Mandrell was the first artist -- male or female -- to win twice in the category (1980-81). Reba McEntire won in 1986.

In the last 32 years (1987-2018), three female acts won entertainer of the year a total of four times. Shania Twain won in 1999, followed by Dixie Chicks in 2000. Taylor Swift won in 2009 and 2011.

Here's another way of looking at this: In the CMA Awards' first 20 years, there were never more than five consecutive years with a male entertainer of the year.  But in the last 32 years, there have been three runs of male winners that extended seven or more years. There was a 12-year streak (1987-1998) where the winners were all male solo artists (or a male duo: Brooks & Dunn), followed by an eight-year streak (2001-08) and a seven-year streak (2012-18).

That latter streak will either extend to eight years if Garth Brooks, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton or Keith Urban wins on Wednesday, or it will end if Underwood wins.

This would be the record-extending seventh win in the category for Brooks, the third for Urban and the first for Church, Stapleton or Underwood.

The 53rd annual CMA Awards will be presented Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The show will be telecast live on the East Coast on ABC.


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