Beyoncé’s Lemonade provided us with all types of quoteables. But perhaps none more memorable and impactful than her “He only want me when I’m not there/ He better call Becky with the good hair.” line. The line itself was provocative, playing on America’s favorite subject: race; and a topic that never goes out of style with Black women: hair.
The fire was only fueled when Rachel Roy tried to, on the very night Lemonade dropped, that she was somehow connected to the drama. Then blogs started saying that Beyoncé had been calling Roy “Becky” for years. Iggy Azalea asked if it was a racial slur. It just blew up.
But the real origins of the lyric are a lot more innocuous than what they’ve become in the digital space.
The reason why so many people were able to relate to Lemonade was because it is a culmination of Black women’s experiences weaved together to share a bit of Beyoncé’s story. And the woman who wrote the “Becky” line was simply using Beyoncé to share her words with the world.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, singer and songwriter, Diana Gordon, explained.
Diana Gordon, formerly known in the industry as Wynter Gordon, has been writing for big named artists for years. And even wrote “Daddy Lessons” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” for the artist. But it’s her contribution to Beyoncé’s “Sorry” that has created so much conversation.
But in order to learn how the line came to be, we have to go back a little bit.
Gordon recently dropped a song of her own called “The Legend Of” and she prefaced it with a poem.
“I turned my pain into stories/ And my stories into songs/ And sold them to the highest bidder. I had the most famous people in/ The world telling my story/ Meanwhile nobody knew who I was including me.”
Gordon told EW why she wrote the poem.
“I did have some dedicated fans who grew with me from MySpace, who knew I did more than just dance music. I think they would have questions. To the world, I was pretty much this girl who did dance music, very easily forgotten, so I wanted to just be real. I wanted to start this new chapter, like f— it, this is who I am and here I am. No more playing, no more sugar coating stuff. Working with Beyoncé has allowed people to shine a light on me and has given me a platform to say, “Okay I’m great, you should pay attention. I’m going to redo this again and we’re going to do it in a way where I don’t have to dance around who I am anymore, dance around the fact that there are real issues going on.”
EW: Why did you decide to use your given name?
I’ve always wanted to change my name. When I was given that name [Wynter] by people that I used to work with when I was very young, I didn’t really know who I was. I don’t associate myself with them anymore. I felt like I did a lot of things out of necessity, maybe because I needed money, because I was told that I was this person and I had to continue just to survive.
I had a breakdown a year and a half ago. It was the deciding factor. I was like, “I have to let everything go because I’ll either die or my life’s going to be ruined or I have to change everything.” As Wynter Gordon, I felt like I did a lot of things that weren’t my truth. I didn’t speak up on topics I knew I should have spoken up on. I didn’t talk about things that were bothering me. I wore a lot of things I hate now. I look back and I cringe. They didn’t seem authentic to my being. I spent the last three years trying to not wash it away, but trying to be myself. No one was really paying attention that much. When you put out a big song like “Dirty Talk,” they’re paying attention to one thing until you as an artist trump the music. Until you do something in a new light, people are always going to go back to it. That was bothering me.
We’re living in a time of wokeness and that’s what’s on my mind. I had an anxiety attack and I let go of everything, things like, “You should be married, you should have a kid, you should have money or a 401K.” I was freaking out about all these things like, “What am I going to do with my life? How can I save face?” I just lost my mind. When I finally got over that, it literally took me going away to another country, taking medication for a while.”
In the song “The Legend Of” she says she “just got a fat check from Beyoncé/“ The interviewer says it’s a bit tongue in cheek because she’s been writing for artists for years and now people have so much to say about her and her work.
Gordon: I respect Beyoncé but I’ve been working with legendary artists since I was 19 years old. I was like I’m going to put this in a song because I know that’s what you care about and that’s what’s going to get me to be able to continuously put out music.
EW: There are also very clear threads between that song and the songs you wrote for Lemonade. Did you come to Beyoncé with those songs or did you collaborate with her?
Beyoncé is a scientist of songs. I’ve never seen anyone work the way she works. She definitely changes the song structures. She can take two songs, say, “I like two lines, I like the melody then let me use that for a verse and a bridge and write the whole middle.” It’s more of a collaboration. You never know what she’ll like. I came to her with a bunch of songs and she was like, “I like that verse, I like the idea.” But she definitely doesn’t take things as is, at least not from me. I came in on the Jack White song [“Don’t Hurt Yourself”] and helped finish it.
EW: What did you think about people’s reactions to the “Becky with the good hair” line in “Sorry”?
I laughed, like this is so silly. Where are we living? I was like, “What day in age from that lyric do you get all of this information?” Is it really telling you all that much, accusing people?
EW: Did you and Beyoncé ever talk about the response?
No. I don’t think she expected it. I saw her at her Formation tour. She had a pajama party; we laughed, we danced, we hugged it out. But I didn’t say much about it at the time because I wanted to give her space. The idea started in my mind but it’s not mine anymore. It was very funny and amusing to me to watch it spread over the world. If it’s not going to be me saying it, and the one person in the world who can say it is Beyoncé, I was f—ing happy. With Beyoncé, I feel like the songs we worked on were specifically for her. I didn’t have a dad growing up, so “Daddy Lessons,” that was more of a fantasy for me. I felt like I was very strong in helping to raise my brothers and sisters but that really was her story.
EW: You’d written that whole song before you worked with her?
When I played it for her, I was like, “This is one of my favorite songs.” She was like, “This is my life.” I told her, “You know what, take it, do what you want with it.” She went and re-produced it, she changed some words, added the bridge, it’s hers. She didn’t talk to me about her father. We didn’t go into details. I see their relationship in the media just like everyone else. I watched the HBO special just like everyone else. When you do work closely with an artist they touch on things and she touched on it. Beyoncé’s been in our homes for nearly 20 years. I’ve loved her since she was in Destiny’s Child, so yeah I know her story.
I was having anxiety and I told her that I felt like I hadn’t gotten” to a place I wanted to get to in my life and she talked to me about things that I wanted for my life. She entrusted a lot power into me. She made me [Parkwood signees] Chloe x Halle’s performance coach. She’s the perfect person to help me tell my story.”
You can read the rest of her interview on Entertainment Weekly.