Tracy Chapman, the legendary singer-songwriter behind the 1988 hit “Fast Car”, has become the first Black songwriter to win the song of the year award at the Country Music Association Awards. The award, which was announced on Wednesday night at the 57th annual CMA Awards in Nashville, was given to Chapman for her songwriting credits on Luke Combs’ cover of “Fast Car”, which topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this year.

Chapman, who did not attend the ceremony, expressed her gratitude and honor in a pre-written statement that was read by presenter Sara Evans. “I’m sorry I couldn’t join you all tonight. It’s truly an honor for my song to be newly recognized after 35 years of its debut,” Chapman said. “Thank you to the CMAs and a special thanks to Luke and all of the fans of ‘Fast Car.’”

Combs, who also won the single of the year award for his version of “Fast Car”, thanked Chapman for writing “one of the best songs of all time” and shared his personal connection to the song. “It’s the first favorite song that I ever had, since I was 4 years old,” Combs said. “I never intended — I just recorded it because I love this song so much, it’s meant so much to me throughout my entire life.”

“Fast Car” was originally released by Chapman on her self-titled debut album in 1988 and became a worldwide hit, earning her four Grammy nominations and two wins. The song, which tells the story of a young woman’s escape from poverty and abuse, has been covered by numerous artists over the years, but Combs’ rendition gave it a new life and audience in the country genre.

Chapman’s historic win at the CMA Awards was applauded by fans and fellow artists on social media, who praised her for breaking barriers and inspiring generations of songwriters. Chapman, who has been notoriously private and reclusive, has not released any new music since 2008, but her legacy and influence remain undeniable.

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