Mar 29, 2024 - Music

Beyoncé pays tribute to country trailblazer Linda Martell

A portrait of Linda Martell.

Linda Martell photographed in Nashville around 1969. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Beyoncé's "Cowboy Carter" includes cameos from country music royals Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, but she also makes space for one of Nashville's lesser-known trailblazers.

  • The album features two appearances from Linda Martell, the first Black woman to play on the Grand Ole Opry stage.

Why it matters: Martell was one of country music's first successful Black artists, reaching No. 22 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with "Color Him Father" in 1969.

  • Her music inspired future generations of artists of color to pursue work in a genre largely dominated by white artists.

Yes, but: The Washington Post reported that Martell remained the highest-ranking Black woman on that chart until "Texas Hold 'Em," the lead single from "Cowboy Carter," hit No. 1.

Flashback: Despite her early success after arriving in Nashville in 1969, Martell encountered racism on the road and eventually left the industry.

State of play: In 2021, CMT marked her contributions to the genre, giving her the Equal Play Award. Darius Rucker and Mickey Guyton lauded her as an inspiration.

What she's saying: In "Cowboy Carter," Martell, now 82, cheers on Beyoncé's genre-defying work.

  • "Genres are a funny little concept, aren't they? Yes, they are," Martell says on the track "Spaghettii."
  • "In theory they have a simple definition that's easy to understand. But in practice, well, some may feel confined."
  • Martell also appears on the interlude "The Linda Martell Show," where she introduces the rollicking, Tina Turner-esque "Ya Ya."
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