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Michael B. Whit on Cowboy Carter, black country musicians

Michael B. Whit on Cowboy Carter, black country musicians


Country music is in public conversations following the release of superstar Beyonc Cowboy Carter. The country album earned the singer the distinction of being the first Black woman tops Billboard Country Music chart.

Beyoncé's massive popularity has brought country music into a new spotlight, bringing new attention and new fans to the genre. But the album also allows listeners to discover little-known black country artists.

Singer-songwriter Michael B. Whit Michael Whitfield, born Michael Whitfield, has been writing and performing country music professionally for seven years, but country music has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. He attributes his exposure to country music and his approach to performing as a black man to his family and roots in Cahokia, Illinois.

Tim Kohler, head of fiction, film and music at the Central Library, organized an exhibition of books and music by black country musicians after the release of Cowboy Carter.

Tim Kohler, head of fiction, film and music at the Central Library, organized an exhibition of books and music by black country musicians after the release of Cowboy Carter.

[Cahokia] was about 50/50. Both black and white. The people who grew up there had a tremendous opportunity to cultivate themselves. We've had the chance to see life from all angles, from both sides of the floor, Whitfield said. Saint-Louis live. Being from Cahokia made it a little easier for me to explore and express these things than if I was in a predominantly black or predominantly white community. Country music has always existed.

Whitfield said he welcomes the attention Beyoncé's album has generated and the resulting conversation about black musicians in country music. He shared that those familiar with his background haven't paid attention to his music career, but new audiences tend to have more questions about his relationship with country music.

[I get] the interesting looks, the interesting looks or the looming question of: How is your country? My answer is always, [Black people have] I’ve always been in the country,” Whitfield said. The planting of banjo within Americana and folk music, it comes from the word bantu. From Linda Martell has DeFord Bailey. When you hear the Grand Ole Opry, these are the first sounds you hear.

Although Whitfield is a black man who writes and performs country music, he does not present himself as a black country musician. However, he recognizes the importance of representation and says he's happy to bring a special sound to country music.

In the early '90s, there wasn't really a strong black presence in country music that brought the soul and gospel elements that country was based on, he said. That's something I bring to the table that's somewhat unique, reimagining what old country would sound like mixed with modern country.

To hear more about Michael B. Whit, including his experience singing the national anthem at the Cardinals' home opener and the influence of Black Americans in country music, listen Saint-Louis live on Apple Podcast, Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

Musician Michael B. Whit welcomes Cowboy Carter's attention to black country musicians

Related event

What: Michael B. Whit Presents: Tribute to Garth Brooks
When: 6:45 p.m. April 19
Where: Westport Playhouse (635 West Port Plaza Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146)

Saint-Louis live brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Is it Norfleet?, Emilie Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha And Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The sound engineer is Aaron Doerr.




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