20 Artists Who Crossed Over to Country, From Beyoncé to Ray Charles

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Beyoncé is part of a great tradition of artists from the pop, R&B and rock worlds stepping into the realm of country music, whether it’s for one record or, in occasional instances, a whole career shift. Of course, none of her predecessors made immediate international headlines by releasing a country single, the way Bey did with “Texas Hold ‘Em” (and its companion song, “16 Carriages”). But at least one can be said to have deeply affected the course of music history: Ray Charles, whose smash 1962 album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” has continued to make music fans think about the links between soul and country, and who established once and for all that crossover doesn’t have to be cause for cynicism.

With Beyoncé as an impetus, Variety is taking a look back at 20 other artists who made their bid to have a side career in country, or just ended up dipping in for one project. Darius Rucker is the exception, as somebody who shifted his entire focus toward the sounds of Nashville. Then there are those like Jessica Simpson, who went from saying she was in country for good to quickly ghosting on the genre after a flop. Even Bon Jovi, who did have a No. 1 single, still left Nashville behind after a single project, as a one-and-done thing. And along the way, there’ve been oddities, like… Ween made a country album? Wait, didn’t we only dream that?

These selections by no means represent the entirety of the phenomenon. Other artists, from Cyndi Lauper to Tiffany, have made a token country record, and the whole history of mid-century country is filled with artists who had a brief career at the very beginning in some other roots genre before switching over, from Charlie Rich to Conway Twitty to Kenny Rogers. But these are some of the more interesting examples of stars who suddenly decided to get their twang on — in reverse chronological order:

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