Beyoncé Reveals Stevie Wonder Played Harmonica on ‘Jolene’ Cover, Thanks Him During iHeartRadio Awards Speech

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Production and songwriter credits for Beyoncé’s new album “Cowboy Carter” hit streaming services this past weekend, but she’s got a few more surprises in store when it comes to the musicians who played on the record.

While accepting the Innovator Award at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Tuesday (April 1), Beyoncé revealed that Stevie Wonder played harmonica on her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” a reimagining of the 1973 classic. Wonder was on hand to present the honor to Beyoncé, who introduced her speech by thanking the artist for how much he inspired her.

“Thank you so much Stevie, I love you. I love you and I honor you. I want to thank you for making a way for all of us,” she said. “I’m honored to receive this recognition from you, Stevie Wonder. Whenever anyone asks me if there’s anyone I can listen to for the rest of my life, it’s always you. So thank you, God bless you.” Wonder responded, “I want to thank you for motivating the world to be a better place.”

It was then that Beyoncé gave a little peek behind the curtain into how “Jolene” came together. “And thank you for playing the harmonica on ‘Jolene,’” she said.

“Jolene” is one of the standout tracks from “Cowboy Carter,” featuring rewritten lyrics and an altered song structure. Parton, who appears twice on the record, initially released “Jolene” as a pleading ode to a woman in hopes that she wouldn’t steal her man, while Beyoncé flipped the narrative into a sneering warning towards a suitor coming for her husband.

Beyoncé’s speech centered on the notion of innovation, and the fortitude it requires to achieve it. “Innovation starts with a dream. But then you have to execute that dream, and that road can be very bumpy,” she said. “Being an innovator is seeing what everyone believes is impossible. Being an innovator often means being criticized, which often will test your mental strength. Being an innovator is leaning on faith and trusting that God will catch you and guide you. So, to all the record labels, every radio station, every award show, my hope is that we’re more open to the joy and liberation that comes from enjoying art with no preconceived notions. I want to dedicate this award to all the innovators who have dedicated their lives and their art to creating shifts. So thank you for your sacrifices, your powerful voices and your dauntless spirits.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 01: Beyoncé accepts the Innovator Award onstage during the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theatre on April 01, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
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Beyoncé also thanked her husband Jay-Z and her three children, as well as the pioneers who helped lead the path for her to grow into the artist she’s become. “Thank you to Rosetta Tharpe. Miss Tracy Chapman, Linda Martell, Prince, Stevie Wonder, André 3000, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and so many more who defied any label placed upon them. Thank you for executing your dream so we could all follow.”

“Cowboy Carter” arrived on March 29 less than two months after she surprise-released its first two singles, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages.” In addition to Wonder’s contribution, the album features guest appearances from Miley Cyrus, Post Malone, Willie Nelson, Shaboozey, Willie Jones, Swizz Beatz and a slew of others.

This post was originally published on Variety

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