Classic CMA Awards Moments, #12: Trisha Yearwood‘s coronation (1997)

#12: Trisha Yearwood
Female Vocalist of the Year

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):


  1. My admiration and support of Trisha has never wavered, in part because she’s such a class act. This video just backs up that claim.

  2. A long over-due recognition for Ms. Yearwood. Also, I think it’s great that she took the time to acknowledge Reba from the stage. So many people would have been simply too flustered to think about the greats that came before them – or just too damn arrogant to give a shout-out to somebody, or even recognize, the history the award holds.

    Makes me love Trisha even more …

    Oh, and here’s the link to view Trisha winning.

    I love Ronnie Milsap’s comment: “Wouldn’t you know they’d ask me to work with 5 beautiful women, when they know I can’t see any of ’em.” Classic.

  3. It would be a real shame if Yearwood never graced the CMA stage again. Very few in the genre’s history have ever possessed such vocal talent, and she has great song selection skills to boot.

    1997 marked the 2nd straight year that Reba was referenced in the Female Vocalist speech, with Patty Loveless mentioning her the previous year.

  4. I agree that Trisha does possess a great vocal talent and a knack for choosing great song, which is to say songs that she can relate to herself. This is the way her heroes Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris have always done things and why they are legends, and Trisha feels she can’t do anything less.

    But I sometimes get the feeling that Trisha’s way of doing things doesn’t translate well anymore to country radio, which looks for cutesy novelty things or redneck anthems. Maybe Trisha is too good for the genre now.

  5. Lots of female vocalist winners seem to recognize Reba in their speech. Didn’t Martina dedicate one of her three to Reba? And I recall KT Oslin referenced Reba in her acceptance speech after ending her 4-consecutive wins streak in 1988.

  6. Tony do you have or know of any links of K.T. Oslin’s acceptance speech!!!

    Trisha was long overdue for this award but it was sheer magic. She managed to be the top artist but maintain her integrity through it all!

  7. Finally got to see K.T. Oslin acceptance speech, she said “Reba, you had one hell of a run gal and I am honored to step in after you” she said it in her Song of the Year speech because she was too flustered when she won Female Vocalist

    The best thing in 1997 was Trisha deserved it 100% and her sales sky rocketed worldwide after the CMA broadcast……she captured the hearts of even more fans with her down to earth attitude

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