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Whether you're thrilled or dismayed to see Beyoncé become the first Black woman to top the hot country songs chart with her new single, "Texas Hold 'Em," you have to give the multi-grammy-award-winning artist credit for knowing how to attract media attention.

I've been listening to Beyoncé and teaching students to think critically about her music for years, and there is no question that she deserves respect for her musicianship and business savvy. As a music historian, though, I wonder whether all the hullabaloo over this "first" is really moving the music industry forward in any meaningful way. By touting Beyoncé's accomplishment, Billboard magazine is obscuring the longstanding accomplishments of other Black country musicians. And it's lending an "inclusive" sheen to an industry that is largely perpetuating a checkered past.

Billboard's charts date back to 1913 and were organized along strict racial lines for decades. Though Black and white musicians alike played country music in the early 20th century, an album by a Black artist was marketed as a "race record" — regardless of its musical style — until that term was replaced by "rhythm and blues" in 1949. The same logic applied to the "country" music category that evolved out of "hillbilly," New Mexican, Hawaiian, string band and gospel music in the late 1920s. To be a "country" artist, you had to be white. In other words, it didn't matter that white musician Jimmie Rodgers and Black musician "Blind" Willie McTell both sang the same blues and ballads. Rodgers' "Blue Yodel" helped earn him the title "the Father of Country Music" along with millions in royalties, while McTell languished in the "race record" category.

Beyoncé seems to know that Black musicians have always been country; they've just been written out of music history. "Texas Hold 'Em" opens with a banjo feature by Rhiannon Giddens, who won the 2011 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Giddens has spoken and written extensively about the Black and white roots of "hillbilly" music, citing fiddler Joe Thompson and string bands like the Tennessee Chocolate Drops. By featuring Giddens on "Texas Hold 'Em," Beyoncé nods to the importance of recovering the mixed racial histories of American music, and not just in country music.

Beyoncé has been at this for a long time: "Crazy in Love" (2003) samples a horn hook by the soul group The Chi-Lites; in her 2018 Coachella performance, an entire marching band plays that hook, summoning the spirit of historically Black colleges and universities like Jackson State and Florida A&M. "Freedom" (2016) samples a 1947 field recording of a Black chain gang at Parchman Farm, a notorious Mississippi prison, and a 1959 recording of a hymn sung by Reverend R.C. Crenshaw. Her soundtrack album "The Lion King: The Gift" (2019) and musical film "Black is King" (2020) both pay homage to African and African American musical traditions. And her album "Renaissance" (2022) celebrates the music of Black club scenes.

Beyoncé may be the first Black woman to top the hot country chart, but she knows that there were many other unsung "firsts" who were never recognized by a music industry that saw them as Black rather than hearing them as American. By making music that highlights her predecessors, Beyoncé proves herself to be a music historian disguised as a pop star. And she invites us to listen past race in order to hear our collective musical past. Who gets written into and out of the stories we tell ourselves about the music we love? Who were the diverse musicians who made Minneapolis a musical destination long before Prince arrived on the scene? Country music isn't the only genre that could use Beyoncé's "Daddy Lessons." We all have a musical ancestry to uncover.

Louis Epstein is a historical musicologist and associate professor of music at St. Olaf College.