5 Music Artists Who Successfully Transitioned into Country Music!

Country music is one of the oldest types of music in the United States, having started in the early 20th century. Many famous artists have tried their hand at the genre, like Bob Dylan in the late-1960s and Lionel Richie in 2012. Here are five artists who successfully made the move into country music!


You knew Queen Bey had to be included on this list, as her two most recent releases, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” are her most overt forays into country music after briefly dabbling in the genre through “Daddy Lessons” on 2016’s Lemonade. The former – adorned with stellar banjo playing from Rhiannon Giddens and a countrified beat – became Beyoncé’s ninth number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in February. It also topped the Hot Country Songs chart, making Beyoncé the first Black woman to hit the top spot on that list. The single has also gone viral on TikTok, with folks performing their own hoedowns to the song. The social media trend comes in anticipation of Beyoncé’s new album, aptly named Cowboy Carter, which was teased during Super Bowl LVIII and is set for release on March 29. 

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is perhaps best known for his days as a troubadour who called for social change through protest songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” or even as a folk-rocker with Highway 61 Revisited. If Dylan going electric was front-page news in 1965, then his appearance as a country crooner on 1969’s Nashville Skyline must have been a complete shock to fans. Dylan flirted with country on previous occasions, notably on John Wesley Harding, but Nashville Skyline was a full immersion into the genre. Dylan’s famously raspy singing is replaced with a smooth-as-whiskey voice, and the rustic atmosphere helped the album reach No. 3 on the Billboard 200. Dylan’s follow-up efforts weren’t as intensely country as the acclaimed Nashville Skyline, but there’s no denying the impact the 1969 record had at the time and holds to this day.

Ray Charles

Long considered to be the “Father of Soul,” Ray Charles popularized soul music in the 1950s by mixing elements of R&B, jazz, and gospel on his way to becoming one of the most influential musicians in history. Charles’ eternal 1960 ballad, “George on My Mind,” incorporated country music, no doubt, but it was on his album two years later, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, that the pianist explored C&W more in depth. It was almost unheard of for an artist of Charles’ stature to cross over into different areas of music at the time, but his previous success allowed him to do so. Either way, audiences ate up the record, as it sold nearly two million copies, allowing for a sequel to be ordered shortly thereafter.

Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie made his own country debut on the song “Stuck On You,” from his 1984 album, Can’t Slow Down. He had previously written the song “Lady” for country star Kenny Rogers, in 1980. Since then, his biggest leap into the genre came on 2012’s Tuskegee, his most recent record to date. On it, country music superstars like Blake Shelton, Willie Nelson, Jason Aldean, and Shania Twain help Richie balance his pop leanings with a more homespun feel. The formula clearly worked, as Tuskegee soon became Richie’s first chart-topping album in almost 30 years and was certified platinum two months after its release. A future release could be on the horizon, as Richie said that a new LP is “coming soon” and “I am so vested in country music, you have no idea” at the 56th Annual Country Music Awards.

The Byrds

The Byrds, who are best remembered for songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” and “Eight Miles High,” mixed their rock background and love of country music to become pioneers of “country rock” in the late-60s. After touching on both bluegrass and country on previous albums, it was only natural for the Byrds to head towards an unabridged Americana approach on Sweetheart of the Rodeo, especially after bringing Gram Parsons into the fold. The Byrds didn’t merit much success from it at the time, mainly due to alienating their loyal rock-centric fanbase and failing to win over the country purists, but Sweetheart of the Rodeo is now a lauded effort, even being ranked at the #274 spot on Rolling Stones’ “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. The record transitioned the Byrds into a near-full-time country rock outfit afterwards, and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

About the Author

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Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes is a Junior at Iona University, majoring in media and strategic communications, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. In his free time, Robert loves to spend hours practicing the bass guitar and hunting for his favorite artists at vinyl record shops.