Black artists have deep roots in the founding of country music, and yet Black musicians, especially women, are underrepresented in the genre. In recent years, many in the industry are working to change that by highlighting the talented Black women who are rising in country music.
Evidence of their underrepresentation is seen in the fact that Mickey Guyton made history as the first Black female singer to perform at the Academy of American Country Awards in September 2020—it was their 55th year running. Her single "Black Like Me" earned her a Grammy nomination in the category "Best Country Solo"—making her the first Black woman solo artist in country music to be nominated for a Grammy. (Before her, The Pointer Sisters won a Grammy for "Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group" for their song "Fairytale.")
Guyton used her appearance at the ACMs to thank Rissi Palmer, whose success in 2007 as the first Black woman to have a chart topping country hit in twenty years, inspired her to pursue country music. In a Twitter post, she wrote:
just want to take a minute and thank @RissiPalmer I would have never had the courage to pursue country music if I had never seen you representing in country music before me. This is all because of you sis. Your courage gave me courage. Love you.
Palmer responded in kind:
You saw what was in front of you & not only rose to it, you surpassed it. What you’ve been on this year is not easy and it’s thankless & lonely. You made history & started a conversation with grace and style, like a Queen. If I had anything to do with that, I’m honored, truly.
Guyton and Palmer aren't the only ones using their time in the spotlight to lift up other Black female vocalists in country music.
Singer Maren Morris, who won three awards at the Country Music Awards in November 2020, dedicated her final acceptance speech to celebrating the Black women in the industry. She said:
There are some names in my mind that I want to give recognition to because I’m just a fan of their music, and they’re as country as it gets. I just want them all to know how much we love them back and just check out their music after this. It’s Linda Martell, Yola, Mickey Guyton, Rissi Palmer, Brittney Spencer, Rhiannon Giddens.
There are so many amazing Black women that pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre, and I know they’re going to come after me, and they’ve come before me, but you’ve made this genre so, so beautiful. I hope you know that we see you. Thank you for making me so inspired as a singer in this genre.
Several of the women Morris praised chatted recently with the New York Times about their careers, their influences, and their experiences as Black women in country music. The interview reads like a conversation among true girlfriends. Their talent, their hearts, and their passion for their craft shine through.
We’ve rounded up songs from these women, as well as few other Black female vocalists in country music. You’ll hear lyrics about faith, courage, love, and friendship (Verily previously featured Guyton’s single “Sister,” included in this playlist, in our “Top 40 Remix” column).