Linda Martell on Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’: ‘What She Is Doing Is Beautiful’

The Black country singer, a pioneer of the genre, thanked Beyoncé for including her on the album

On Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé shines a spotlight on country pioneer Linda Martell, whose 1970 LP, Color Me Country, was the first major country album released by a Black woman. Martell speaks the intro to “Spaghettii,” talking about the confining nature of the word “genre,” and she gets her own track, “The Linda Martell Show,” a segue track introducing “Ya Ya” as a “tune [that] stretches across a range of genres, and that’s what makes it a unique listening experience.”

Martell, 82, released a statement on Instagram on Friday thanking Beyoncé for the recognition. “I am proud that Beyoncé is exploring her country music roots,” Martell wrote, next to a screenshot of “The Linda Martell Show” streaming on Spotify. “What she is doing is beautiful, and I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s Beyoncé, after all!”


A few years ago, Martell reflected on her career and role as a country music trend-setter in a Rolling Stone profile. The artist, who was born Thelma Bynem and previously sang in girl groups, recalled a 1969 meeting with Nashville label owner Shelby Singleton Jr. who asked her what she wanted out of a career. When she said she just wanted to sing, he suggested she try country. “I looked at him, like, ‘Really?’” she said. “I was a little bit shocked! I was mostly doing pop. But he said, ‘You gotta go country.’”

Color Me Country made it to Number 40 on the country chart, but Martell never recorded a follow-up album, instead singing in clubs. Eventually she settled in South Carolina and worked as a bus driver to be closer to her family. When Rolling Stone asked her if she takes pride in her status as a Black country pioneer, she responded mysteriously, “Sometimes.”

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