7 Things to Know About Country Pioneer Linda Martell, Who Appears on Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’

On Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter, released Friday (March 29), the superstar salutes pioneering country artist Linda Martell, the first Black woman to ever play the Grand Ole Opry in 1969, and, in doing so, is introducing the pioneer to a whole new audience. 

Though she has long retired, the 82-year-old Martell returns on Beyoncé’s album on two segments, both of which address Beyoncé’s refusal to be bound by genre lines. In the introduction to “Spaghettii,” she says, “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they? Yes they are. In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand, but in practice, well, some may feel confined.”

Martell returns on the 28-second interlude titled “The Linda Martell Show,” opening with “Thank you very much,” to the sound of applause. She continues, “This particular tune stretches across a range of genres and that’s what makes it’s a unique listening experience. Yes, indeed. It’s called ‘Ya Ya,’” she says before the genre-bending “Ya Ya” opens to a sample of Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 classic, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin.’”

For many listeners, this is likely the first time they have heard of Martell, who played such a groundbreaking role in country music. Her breakthrough single, “Color Him Father,” peaked at No. 22 in September 1969. The song was the highest-charting song on the tally by a Black woman for more than 50 years until Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold ‘Em” reached No. 1 earlier this year.

On Friday, Martell praised Beyoncé via an Instagram post. “I am proud that @beyonce is exploring her country music roots. What she is doing is beautiful, and I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s Beyoncé, after all!”

Here are seven things you should know about Martell.

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