The organization gave the Grammy-winner the President's Award on Tuesday, as well as honored many of country's top songwriters and artists, during a ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee.
For Yoakam, there wasn't any choice other than creating his own sound.
"I never thought about doing it another way," he said during an interview on the red carpet prior to the ceremony. "I kind of just did what I felt was honest."
Born in Kentucky, Yoakam bypassed the Nashville scene and moved to California, where the Bakersfield-style of country music became one of his big influences. He's had hits with "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" and "Fast As You," and several platinum-selling albums.
"I was always a little stunned that things have been played 2, 3 million times in the case of some of the albums, you know, some of the songs that are tracks off albums," Yoakam said. "So tonight, this is kind of a culmination of the 34 years of receiving those individual awards."
Country singers Jon Pardi, Margo Price and the group The Highwomen with Jason Isbell performed some of Yoakam's songs during the ceremony.
Other top country songwriters were also honored, including Nicolle Galyon and Ross Copperman. Galyon became the first female songwriter to win BMI's country songwriter of the year since Taylor Swift in 2010.
Galyon co-wrote Lee Brice's "Boy," Keith Urban's "Coming Home," Lady Antebellum's "Heartbreak" and Dan + Shay's "Tequila." Copperman co-wrote Kenny Chesney's "Get Along," Blake Shelton's "I Lived It," Justin Moore's "Kinda Don't Care" and Dierks Bentley's "Woman, Amen."
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