I grew up listening to Pete Seeger, Josh White and the Beatles, let’s get that outta the way right here. To those folks slamming Beyoncé’s new album “Cowboy Carter,” I’m sure as hell not “country.”

Fifty years ago, before lots of the critics were born, I was drinking flat draft beer in a dive bar on Broadway in Nashville. The players in the house band were all talented musicians who were taking a break from living like sardines packed into a bus in the road bands of the stars. Even musicians want to spend some time with their kids or just get some rest in a bed that doesn’t move.

The Grand Old Opry had just moved to Opryland, leaving the Ryman Auditorium with locked doors and cracking paint. Commercialization was part of the culture ever since the genre got the name “country,” but the slick part — the influence of rock and pop — was only beginning to kick into high gear. There was still plenty of the music that the genre was founded on to be heard.

The bread and butter of the Nashville scene back then was definitely country, but there was an enclave of clubs, favored by musicians themselves, where you could hear every kind of music you can imagine. I was lucky enough to be in the house one night when a put-together band was playing. Buddy Spicher was playing fiddle; Buddy Harman on drums; Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano; Henry Strzelecki on bass; Neil Flanz on pedal steel; and Maine’s own Lenny Breau on guitar. This band was a virtual who’s-who of the folks who invented the sound of country music, but that night they were playing everything from rock and show tunes to bebop jazz.

Nashville in the mid-1970s still had a whole lot of the Jim Crow South coursing through its veins. I used to worry that somebody would cut the tire stems on my VW when it was parked on Broadway because it was a “foreign” car with Yankee tags. I was only a long-haired white kid, but I was still scared to death of the Tennessee State Patrol. Being Black in Tennessee has never been easy street, and Charlie Pride was close to the only Black person to make it to mega stardom in country music by that point. So I’m not trying to conjure up some good old days of inclusiveness, but most of the musicians themselves were all about music, and they didn’t care about how much melanin you had in your skin — or pretty much anything else for that matter — so long as you had the chops.

I’ve been listening to “Cowboy Carter” and I’ve gotta say I think it’s beyond great. I’m not a big fan of the hyper-commercialization of music, but when it comes through with the goods like “Cowboy Carter” does, I’ll take it.

As for the trolls standing at the gates of what they think is country music, deciding who gets in, they need to study their music’s roots — which sure as hell ain’t lily white. They’re riding a bronco that looks like country, but is really a Trojan horse for white supremacy.

I understand that bigotry is mostly built on fear, and I can feel for folks who are scared. When that fear leads to exclusion, however, count me out. If somebody comes along preaching the conversion of division and hate into love — like Beyoncé is doing — and somebody else wants to shut them up or out because of it, that’s just sad and ugly.

Music genres are business designations, not music. If Beyoncé isn’t “country,” who cares? I’m not country either, but I’ll bet I’ve pitched more bales than most of the self-appointed gatekeepers, and I love anyone who’s not scared to put love over hate.

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