Trisha Yearwood had been nominated for numerous CMA awards in the past, but she’d often been surpassed by her peers. Her lone victory before the 1997 awards show was for her small part in the Eagles tribute Common Thread, which won Album of the Year in 1994. But one of country music’s truly gifted vocalists made significant progress within a span of ten minutes on September 24, 1997.
First, she sang the Diane Warren ballad “How Do I Live,” her contribution to the Con Air soundtrack. Her pleading, yearning performance earned a standing ovation from the industry crowd. Immediately after the performance, Ronnie Milsap presented the Female Vocalist of the Year award. For the third time, Yearwood was nominated for the honor, and she received yet another standing ovation when her name was called as the winner. Her tearful speech (thanking her husband, her parents and Reba McEntire) was made in humble, honest awe at the vociferous support from an often-discerning crowd.
“I don’t know what to say,” admitted an overwhelmed Trisha, “except that this is what I have wanted ever since I saw Reba McEntire win Female Vocalist of the Year and stand on this stage and say into the TV set, ‘If you have a dream you can make it come true.’ I believed you Miss Reba and I’m here.” Trisha went on to thank her parents. “Most of all, I want to thank my parents. As proud as you are of me right now, I’m prouder to be your daughter.”
Later, Yearwood would say, “I wasn’t prepared at all for the response from the crowd. To win it, of course that was a thrill. It was the elusive award. It was the one I wanted because it was the one I’d never got. But the crowd–that made it so much sweeter for me.” The triumph was followed by two Grammy awards the following February, the ACM Top Female Vocalist trophy in May and sales of four million copies for her first greatest hits collection, Songbook. Although she would repeat as Female Vocalist of the Year in 1998 and would receive a total of 21 CMA nominations as of this year, this victory was her grandest moment on the CMA stage.
Trisha Yearwood, “How Do I Live” (1997):
Trisha Yearwood, Female Vocalist of the Year (1997):