The 2020 CMA Awards were held earlier this week, pandemic be damned, with several tributes to country legends that were lost this year, including a Charlie Daniels medley, renditions of Joe Diffie and Kenny Rogers songs, and a Mac Davis’ “In the Ghetto.” Notably absent were mentions of the late John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Billy Joe Shaver — figures who were less in the spotlight than the stars that the CMAs chose to recognize, but who nonetheless made immeasurable contributions to country music.
Several artists have since angrily spoken out about the snubs. On Thursday night, Jason Isbell announced on Twitter that he and his partner Amanda Shires were returning their CMA membership cards over the lack of recognition for Prine, Walker, or Shaver (the latter of whom Shires played fiddle for early in her career).
“I doubt anybody will care, but we cared a lot about our heroes,” Isbell wrote.
Due to @CountryMusic’s failure to mention John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Billy Joe Shaver at the CMA’s last night, @amandashires and I have decided to return our membership cards. I doubt anybody will care, but we cared a lot about our heroes. pic.twitter.com/UmplzD0Z7p
Sturgill Simpson also slammed the CMAs in a since-deleted Instagram video, criticizing the Prine snub and saying that he “wouldn’t be caught dead” at the ceremony while rolling his eyes at host Darius Rucker’s performance of “Beers and Sunshine.”
“Don’t get it twisted,” he wrote in the post caption. “[I] wouldn’t be caught dead at this tacky a— glitter and botox cake & c— pony show even if my chair had a morphine drip. I just wanted to see if they would say his name but nope. No time for Buddha….It’s time for this hegemonic horse s— ship to sink and for that to happen the music press needs to ask and demand answers to the hard questions instead of depending on those of us outside the box for the ‘tasty quote machine’ answers.”
He added, “If the guitars look worn folks it’s not from playing, it’s from all the freshly scratched off rebel flag stickers.”