What Happened To This Black Innovation? The Real Origins of Country Music

Musician holding guitar
Via Pixabay
Brooke Brown
June 11, 2021

Despite Billboard displacing Lil Nas X’s song “Old Town Road” from the country charts, the artist jumped to the top of the Hot 100 Chart after country legend Billy Ray Cyrus jumped on the remix. And in the years since, he’s dominated with hit after hit.

To understand just how absurd their campaign to block Black artists from the Country charts is, though, you have to know the role Black musicians played in country music’s early popularity.

The banjo, a prominent aspect of country music, was invented by the enslaved as early as the 1690s! The fiddle was also popularized by us and can be heard throughout early forms of blues, R&B, and country.

Despite these contributions and more, most Black country artists have been barred from achieving mainstream success. Two exceptions are Charley Pride and DeFord Bailey, the only Black artists to have ever been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Although Black artists are not the face of country music, our presence and impact on its evolution are undeniable. 

The current success of artists like Jimmie Allen, Darius Rucker, Kane Brown – and Lil’ Nas X – is a testament to the groundwork that was laid for Black country artists for at least three centuries.

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