The 2021 CMT Music Awards Will Honor Linda Martell

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Hey Hollywooders! Happy ‘Good in the Wood Wednesday! This week, we’re looking at Black country music star Linda Martell, who will receive CMT’s 2021 Equal Play Award at tonight’s CMT Music Awards. As one of the first successful Black female country singers, she’s influenced the careers of many artists of color in the country music scene.

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Who is Linda Martell?

Linda Martell was born on June 4th, 1941, in South Carolina. Growing up, she spent her time singing gospel music and listening to country and R&B. As a teenager, she formed a singing group with her family called Linda Martell and the Anglos. 

When the group broke up a couple of years later, Linda was discovered while singing on a South Carolina Air Force Base. She went on to release a country cover of The Winstons’ “Color Him Father,” which earned major success reaching the top 20 of the Billboard Hot Country singles chart. In 1969, Linda became the first African-American female artist to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage. She then released her debut album, Color Me Country, in 1970, which gained positive reviews and reached number 40 on the Billboard Top Country chart.

Unfortunately, Linda Martell retired from the music scene after dealing with racism while performing and being blacklisted by her record label. In 2020, she was reintroduced into pop culture when country artist Rissi Palmer started a podcast, Color Me Country, named after Linda Martell’s album.

Country music’s biggest stars will honor Linda Martell

Mickey Guyton will present the award to Linda Martell, while Darius Rucker, Jennifer Nettles, Carrie Underwood, Rissi Palmer, and Rhiannon Giddens will congratulate the country star in a video package.

Rissi Palmer sees Linda Martell as an inspiration for her and the many Black women in country music. “Thank you, Linda, for being brave, fearless, talented, and beautiful, and for putting yourself out there, even when it was difficult,” she tells CMT. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

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Senior Vice President of Music & Talent at CMT, Leslie Fram, tells CMT that Linda Martell has made a significant impact on the world of country music:

Linda Martell is a living legend who has influenced so many artists of color, giving them the courage and hope to pursue their dreams and a future reality of Equal Play in country music. Linda embodies the spirit of our ‘Equal Play’ initiative and we are proud to honor her with this prestigious award.” 

CMT’s Equal Play Initiative began in 2019

CMT’s Equal Play Initiative started in 2019 to combat the lack of female representation in country music within radio and streaming platforms. According to CMT, the initiative “is designed to encourage and promote measurable industry-wide action and create an ongoing path for parity and diversity.”

Last year CMT’s Equal Play Initiative honored Sugarland lead singer Jennifer Nettles.

The CMT Music Awards Air Tonight 

Rising country stars Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini will host this year’s CMT Music Awards. Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert lead with nominations, while first-time nominee Mickey Guyton earned three nominations. Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, and Chris Stapleton are among the many performers tonight, including appearances from R&B stars like Gladys Knight, John Legend, and H.E.R

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Catch the CMT Music Awards tonight at 8 p.m/7c on CMT, MTV, MTV2, Logo, Paramount Network, TV Land, and CMT Australia.

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