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Alice Randall shines a light on the Black trailblazers in country music (including herself)

If you were listening to country radio in the ‘90s, at some point you were bound to hear Trisha Yearwood’s 1994 hit “XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl).”

Alice Randall.
Photo by Keren Trevino
Alice Randall.

It became a historic moment in country music because Alice Randall, who co-wrote the song, is Black. And so she became the first Black woman to get writing credit on a #1 country hit.

Randall has written tracks for artists such as Glen Campbell and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as novels and screenplays. Now she’s written a memoir coming out April 9 called “My Black Country.”

It’s about her harsh upbringing in Detroit, where she first fell in love with country music; her rocky first years in Nashville; and her eventual breakthrough.

The book has a companion album of the same name, with Randall’s songs being interpreted by a new generation of Black singers with country roots, from Rhiannon Giddens to Adia Victoria to Allison Russell. 

You might have noticed that the Black influence on country music has come to the surface recently in a couple of big musical moments. I can’t think of anybody more suited to talking about them — and her own life in country — than Alice Randall.

Music in this episode:

  • Trisha Yearwood, "XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl")
  • Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs, "Fast Car"
  • Beyoncé, "Texas Hold 'Em" and "16 Carriages"
  • Jimmie Rodgers, "Blue Yodel #9"
  • John Prine, "Angel From Montgomery"
  • Rhiannon Giddens, "Sally Anne"
  • Valerie June, "Big Dream"
Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.