Black Renaissance in Country Music

Whether most people realize it or not, the influence of black culture can be seen in nearly every genre and is intrinsic to the modern music industry. While this influence is most often attributed to the genres that are stereotypically associated with Black music like R&B, Hip-Hop/ Rap, and Soul, its impact stems from deep roots in history and extends to other genres such as Rock n’ Roll, Folk, and Country.

For instance, rock & roll emerged from a mix of gospel, and rhythm & blues. Its origin traces back to a humble guitarist who crossed over from gospel music to rhythm & blues, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Known as a precursor artist to rock ‘n’ roll as we know it today, Tharpe greatly influenced early rock musicians such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, playing a pivotal role in shaping modern rock.

Though the influence of black music on certain genres is well-known, there are limits to its acceptance. One such example is in the country music genre, largely dominated by white musicians for many decades. But with the release of her new album ‘Cowboy Carter’, Beyonce has taken a very deliberate step into the genre, stirring up animosity from a subset of people who would prefer her to “stay in her own lane.”

What they don’t know is that without black culture and influence, country music wouldn’t exist. Let’s talk about it…

Country Music Has a New Face

Most people associate country music with rural America and has a rich history deeply rooted in storytelling and simple living told from the perspective of a down-home, salt-of-the-earth, working-class person. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the fabulous Beyonce made waves with the release of ‘Cowboy Carter.’ While she has received some (generally racially-charged) criticism for her foray into the genre, it hasn’t impacted her success in any way.

With the release of her single, ‘Texas Hold ‘Em,’ Beyoncé became the first Black woman to reach the US No. 1 spot with a country song. This feat is even more impressive when you consider the interference of some country radio programmers whose suppression of the single kept it from getting initial airplay. After a petition led by the singer’s fans, however, hold-out radio stations began playing the song. This achievement makes Beyoncé the first woman to top both that list and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list in over sixty years.

As of April 13, ‘Cowboy Carter’ rings in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums, Americana/Folk Albums and Top Album Sales charts. Today, Beyoncé stands as the first Black woman ever to have led the Top Country Albums list, since its inception in January 1964.

Since her Destiny Child days, Beyoncé has become the most viewed and watched Black Woman in all of history, with over 30 Grammys to her name. And while she has made her mark as an icon in music, she is far from the first Black musician to make a mark in country music…

4 Iconic Black Country Music Artists

  1. One of the first Black stars of country music was DeFord Bailey, who became a country music star despite facing difficulties early in life. Born into a family of farmers in Tennessee, Bailey lost his mother soon after his birth, and his aunt and uncle became his foster parents. Polio struck Bailey at age three, stunted his growth and left his back deformed. However, in 1927, Bailey became the first Black person introduced to Nashville radio station WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. He was also their Black first performer and the first Black person to have his music recorded in Nashville.

  2. As the story goes, Jimmie Allen spent his “last $100” to see Charley Pride sing at the CMA Awards. Then, just four years later he shared the same stage with Pride — singing “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” to honor the country musicians’ legacy. Allen has created a name for himself as a country music superstar. In 2019, he became the first Black singer to send his debut single, “Best Shot,” to No. 1 on the country radio charts; he earned the ACM Award for New Male Artist of the Year.

  3. Another iconic black country & folk musician is Allison Russell, who began her career covering Stan Roger’s songs with local musicians at an Irish pub in her native Montreal. Russell stepped out on her own with her debut, full-length album “Outside Child.” In a storytelling album that chronicles her childhood in Canada, Russell sings of her abuse. She finished the album in three days at Nashville’s Sound Emporium studio, enlisting collaborations from Americana breakout Yola and gospel favorite The McCrary Sisters.

  4. On live television, country star Maren Morris dedicated her CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year to a handful of Black women in country music. One of the names? Brittney Spencer.

    A Baltimore native who moved to Nashville in 2013, Spencer’s ascent extends far behind one-time recognition. Her new single, “Sober & Skinny” — showcases rich storytelling that’s impactful and relatable. She sings, “But in a perfect world/ You get sober, I get skinny/ We live all for more than pennies/ Write the checks that we can cash.”

Black Music is Country Music

Music has no boundaries and the new popularity of Beyonce’s genre experimentation is an important reminder of this. It’s a renaissance of music and is showcasing the influence of Black music and how much musical landscape it has covered.

The re-emergence of the Black artist spotlight in the country music scene is causing a lot of controversy from people who heavily associate a music genre with race. This however is a reminder that music does not belong to a group of people and that black influence has transcended time and societal expectations. Above all, it’s an assurance that music belongs to everyone and is a universal language transcending past race, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender.

If you’re interested in expanding your playlist with diverse range of incredible musicians, or are an artist yourself — explore digital music collectibles at

About the Author

Bose Robinson

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