Wednesday (Nov. 8), will mark the 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards, where Country Music’s finest will be celebrated and rewarded for their artistry over the past year. Somewhere during the ABC telecast, there will be a 48th winner announced of the Song of the Year award. (“Easy Loving,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and “Always On My Mind” each won the prize twice.)
Throughout the history of the CMA Awards, there have been many great lyrical triumphs in the category. Here are 10 of the greatest Song of the Year winners that stand as the epitome of great country music lyrics.
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10. Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton – “Over You” (2012)
Though their personal union is now a thing of the past, the names of Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton will forever be tied together with their tender composition that was a tribute to Shelton’s brother — who was tragically killed in an automobile accident when Blake was just a teenager. Shelton was a little too closely connected to the words to record the song himself, so Lambert cut the track – and helped the couple to become the first (and to-date, only) husband and wife to win the Song of the Year trophy.
9. Jack Greene – “There Goes My Everything” (1967)
Dallas Frazier penned this powerful ballad with great country music lyrics that lamented about the utter devastation one feels when a relationship ends, and Jack Greene took the song the rest of the way, making it a number one hit on Christmas Eve 1966. The next fall, this composition would earn Frazier – who also wrote “Elvira” — the very first CMA Song of the Year trophy. But, it’s success didn’t end there. In 1971, Elvis Presley took the song to No. 9 on the country charts — his first appearance in the top ten on that list in over a decade.
8. Brad Paisley ft. Alison Krauss – “Whiskey Lullaby” (2005)
Many in the industry were concerned when the CMAs took the awards show on the road, opting for the Big Apple and Madison Square Garden in 2005. But, the music remained pretty much unchanged that year — and the Song of the Year selection from that show was a reflection of that. Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss struck a chord with fans with this bit of country / Greek tragedy about a couple and their demons that was so eloquently written by Jon Randall and Bill Anderson – with the latter finally being recognized for his songwriting by the CMA after being a key player in the business for five decades.
7. K.T. Oslin – “’80’s Ladies” (1988)
If you were coming up with a blueprint on what would make a successful country artist or song, KT Oslin wouldn’t have been your likely pick. Forty-five at the time she released her first single for RCA, one ingredient that Oslin had in her favor was her songwriting, which many fans of the same generation identified with. Her first major hit record turned out to be the one that likely left the largest imprint on the audience, earning her a well-deserved trophy — making her the first female writer to earn the award by herself.
6. Porter Wagoner – “The Carroll Country Accident” (1969)
Bob Ferguson penned this classic for Porter Wagoner that was steeped in the timeless country music tradition of story songs. The mystery of what happened to the wedding ring of Walter Browning was a plot twist that was akin to any great movie or television series, and the song intrigued millions upon its release. CMA voters agreed, making this the third winner of the Song of the Year trophy in 1969.
5. Sugarland – “Stay” (2008)
The “other woman” has been one of the most maligned figures in American music, and perhaps with good reason. However, this single from Sugarland was one of the first time that the “mistress” was portrayed in a sympathetic light. Though the single was credited to the duo, this was definitely Jennifer Nettles’ moment to shine as both a performer and writer of these timeless country music lyrics, and she took full advantage — becoming only the second solo female composer in the history of the CMAs to win the prize.
4. Steve Wariner – “Holes In The Floor Of Heaven” (1998)
There was nobody in their seat at the Grand Ole Opry House in 1998 when Steve Wariner — long one of country music’s most respected artists — finally found himself in the winners’ circle with this powerful ballad about a subtle way that our loved ones might send messages from the beyond that will cause nobody to ever think about rain the same way again. The award, which Wariner shared with Billy Kirsch, was a moment that was worth the wait.
3. Gary Morris – “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (1984)
Before Bette Midler struck Pop Music gold with this Larry Henley / Jeff Silbar trademark, it was a huge country hit for Gary Morris, whose touching performance on the song — paying tribute to someone who had been the guiding light in the singer’s life — helped earn the song its’ initial moment in the spotlight. But, as great as either of those songs were, neither was the first to record the song. That distinction goes to pop balladeer Roger Whittaker.
2. Crystal Gayle – “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (1978)
Richard Leigh seemingly had the magic touch for writing songs from Crystal Gayle. The songwriter had written the singer’s first number one record — 1976’s “I’ll Get Over You,” but that wouldn’t compare to the commercial punch of this Music City classic. The song rose to the top of the Country Singles chart, and just missed the apex of the Hot 100, as well, becoming a classic for the ages, with its memorable country song lyrics.
1. Randy Travis – “Three Wooden Crosses” (2002)
If you are lucky, you might have one song to be recognized as Song of the Year. Perhaps you’re a little more fortunate to have two. But, in 2002, Randy Travis watched as songwriters Doug Johnson and Kim Williams earned the Song of the Year award — his third song to win the honor for the writers — with this masterfully-composed song about a farmer, teacher, a hooker, a preacher and the accident that united them all.