Country music has been around since the 1920’s. It has primarily been dominated by white male artists, apart from a few female superstars, such as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
Although some of the contributions by several African American artists in the mid-twentieth century or so such as Chuck Berry and Ray Charles have helped influence the genre, it wasn’t until the 1970s before all that changed.
Aaliyah Cannon is an APSU senior majoring in Applied Exercise Science, and she wanted to ensure that people didn’t forget about the roots of country music.
“Country has origins of West Africa and Blues. So, it’s not really about black people joining country music but giving themselves back the space they created and then shut out of,” Cannon expressed.
Charley Pride was considered the first major black country superstar breaking into the country music scene in 1966. Until Cowboy Troy and Darius Rucker arrived on the scene in the early 2000’s, there weren’t any major country singers of color.
Now, African American artists are becoming more mainstream in country music.
Mickey Guyton sang a powerful rendition of our National Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl. However, people have not been familiar with her before her performance at the Super Bowl.
APSU student Heather Carlos, who is a senior majoring in Political Science first heard of the country singer during the big game.
Like most, Heather was introduced to Mickey Guyton during the Super Bowl. Heather had always enjoyed country music growing up but parted ways with the genre.
“A lot of things surrounding country music pushed me away from it,” stated Carlos.
Carlos had a change of heart after hearing one of Guyton’s songs. She explained that Mickey had piqued her interest again. “Her song ‘Black Like Me’ is my literal life anthem.”
Jimmie Allen is nominated for Academy of Country Music’s (ACM) Male Vocalist of the year. His duet with Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway”, is one of those fun road trip anthems that you just want to crank up on the radio.
One act that is truly on the rise is a female trio called ‘Chapel Hart’. The powerful and gospel-like voices of these women perform amazing ballads as well as fun songs that many people can relate to.
One of their hits, “You Can Have Him Jolene”, is a direct response to the iconic hit “Jolene” from the legendary Dolly Parton.
There are many other African American artists taking the country music scene by storm and the list keeps growing. The diversity that has been added to this genre of music is bringing it into the 21st century.