November 4, 2008
In a rare coup for a new artist, Mary Chapin Carpenter earned a coveted performance slot on the 1990 show, and she used it to establish her identity as one of country music’s left-of-center talents. She decided to perform the biting “You Don’t Know Me (I’m the Opening Act),” a cutting dismissal of country star power gone awry. It was a risky move, with the less-than-famous artist taking a stab at the music industry who would determine the fate of her career.
In delivering such clever lines as, “This is my career and I’m paying my dues/And if I ever get rich and famous I guess I’ll be a jackass, too/Till then, you don’t know me/I’m the opening act,” she managed to gain acceptance from the crowd. The witty ode to those whose egos have trumped their talent, inspired by Carpenter’s headlining act/touring partner in 1990, was a major hit with the audience. She received a standing ovation at the end of the semi-scandalous story of a rising musician’s struggle. But Carpenter didn’t struggle for long. Two years later, she won the first of back-to-back Female Vocalist of the Year trophies in a CMA career that included 12 nominations, among them, a nomination for Album of the Year and Single of the Year (for the similarly sharp “I Feel Lucky”) in 1992.