Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires Exit Country Music Association After 2020 CMAs Didn’t Honor John Prine

Some country icons who died this year were honored during the 2020 CMAs last night (including Kenny Rogers, Charlie Daniels, and Mac Davis), but three icons went unmentioned during the broadcast: John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Billy Joe Shaver. For this reason, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires have announced that they’re returning their lifetime membership cards to the Country Music Association. “I doubt anybody will care, but we cared a lot about our heroes,” Isbell wrote.

This year’s CMAs has been at the receiving end of criticism by multiple artists. In the video below, Sturgill Simpson joined Isbell in calling out the show for not mentioning Prine. “Don’t get it twisted…wouldn’t be caught dead at this tacky ass glitter and botox cake & cock pony show even if my chair had a morphine drip,” Simpson wrote. “I just wanted to see if they would say his name but nope.” The video includes his reaction to one of the night’s performances. Simpson, who has called out the CMAs before, discussed his friendship with Prine on Colbert on the night of the CMAs.

“We’re disappointed John won’t be a part of the CMA award show tonight,” Prine’s label Oh Boy Records wrote in a tweet. “Country music was both the inspiration and foundation for his songwriting and performing. While there may be a number of artists who have had more commercial success than John, there are very few who achieved more artistically.”

Margo Price called out the apparent censorship inherent to the show’s “no drama” billing. “Anyone still participating is a socially unconscious pawn,” she wrote. “Artists pander woke authenticity when it benefits them and then sit in silence as they collect their plastic trophies. Also the music sucks.” Price also criticized the show’s lack of diversity. Maren Morris took a moment in her speech last night to acknowledge and thank Black women in country music.

Pitchfork has reached out to the Country Music Association for comment on Isbell and Shires’ statement.

Read “Remembering John Prine, the Ultimate Songwriter’s Songwriter” and “The Story of Outlaw Country in 33 Songs.”

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