In a courageous move, Kathy Mattea drew attention to the AIDS epidemic at the 1992 ceremony. The entertainment industry was making special note of the disease by wearing red ribbons to promote awareness; however, the Country Music Association wished to steer clear of controversy. They promoted green ribbons to the artist, meant to signify environmental awareness, but Mattea refused to follow suit. She had asked the CMA to help her script a short speech on the issue, but their ignorance of her request demonstrated their disapproval.
As Mattea presented that night, she wore three red ribbons along with the green one. She also announced the names of her three friends who had died from the disease. The Country Music Association failed to share her activism and commitment to the cause, but her determination created discussion about the issue and elevated its importance in the Nashville community. Two years later, Mattea led the creation of Red Hot + Country, an album to raise funds for AIDS education. The 1992 ceremony was the starting point in this quest, and though Mattea has earned four CMA awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year in 1989-1990, this was her defining moment on country music’s biggest stage.
Kathy Mattea, “455 Rocket” video (1997-CMA Video of the Year):