Lori McKenna is the First Female ACM Songwriter of the Year Winner in 52 Years, But…


In the entire 52-year history of the Academy of Country Music Awards, there has never been female winner of the organization’s Songwriter of the Year award, until now. Lori McKenna, who has been on one incredible run with her solo-written song “Humble and Kind,” has broken what appears to be a half century-long barrier keeping female songwriters from the distinction. The win was announced Friday evening (3-31) at the ACM’s “Party for a Cause” ahead of Sunday’s ACM Awards.

Along with penning the blockbuster single “Humble and Kind” from Tim McGraw, Lori McKenna released her own critically-acclaimed solo record The Bird & The Rifle in 2016, and has had a hand in penning some of the most important songs in country music in the last half decade, including Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” which also went on to become heavily decorated.

“Humble and Kind” has already won Song of the Year honors from the CMA Awards in November and the Grammy Awards in February. Also up for the ACM’s Song of the Year, if “Humble and Kind” wins it will be the first song to sweep the major awards shows in 15 years—since Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” did it in 2002-2003.

Of course all of this begs the question of how the Academy of Country Music could go 52 years without naming at least one female Songwriter of the Year before 2017. Is sexism in country music that rampant? And how was this overlooked for so long?

Though Songwriter of the Year was handed out at the very first ACM Awards in 1965 to Roger Miller, between 1965 and 2010 (that’s 45 years, and the vast majority of ACM history), no Songwriter of the Year Award was doled out by the Academy to anyone. In 2011 the award was re-instituted, with Dallas Davidson winning the distinction. Songwriter of the Year has only been handed out by the ACM’s now seven times. Yes, it’s still an important moment, but maybe not as historic as multiple media outlets are portraying it. In many respects, females still wage an uphill battle in mainstream country.

Nonetheless, the distinction speaks to the incredible year Lori McKenna has experienced that may only get better if “Humble and Kind” wins the ACM for Song of the Year.

ACM Songwriter of the Year Winners:

(Note: The ACM archives denote the previous year from when an award is actually awarded, i.e. the eligibility period as opposed to the calendar year it is given out.)

  • Roger Miller – 1965
  • Dallas Davidson – 2011
  • Dallas Davidson – 2012
  • Shane McAnally – 2013
  • Luke Laird – 2014
  • Ross Copperman – 2015
  • Lori McKenna – 2016