Meet Linda Martell: Forgotten Black Country Artist Honoured by Beyoncé

In the early '70s, Linda Martell teetered on the edge of country stardom with a praised album & singles. Despite sharing stages with stars like Waylon Jennings, her legacy is marked by both triumphs & struggles.

Ishika Thanvi
New Update
Linda Martell

Image: Mark Humphrey/AP

Linda Martell's journey in the history of country music history is one marked by both triumph and tribulation. In the early 1970s, Martell stood poised on the brink of stardom, armed with a hit single and an album that drew praise from Billboard for her authentic style and deep connection to country lyricism. She shared stages with luminaries like Waylon Jennings and achieved the historic feat of becoming the first Black woman to grace the Grand Ole Opry.


However, Martell's stardom was abruptly halted, leaving many to wonder what derailed the promising career of this groundbreaking artist. In her own account, she recounts being sidelined in favor of white artists and subsequently blacklisted by industry power brokers. This, along with fading support from her label, led Martell to renounce her dreams and depart from Nashville in 1974, effectively fading into darkness.

Beyoncé's Tribute: Honouring a Legacy

Fast forward half a century, and the spotlight once again shines on Linda Martell, courtesy of none other than global pop icon Beyoncé. In her latest album, "Cowboy Carter," Beyoncé pays homage to Martell with several references, including a track named in her honour. This effort by Beyoncé serves a dual purpose: to acknowledge the significant contributions of Black musicians to country music's heritage and to shed light on the systemic erasure of their influence within the industry.

Martell's Impact and Legacy

Martell's influence transcends her own era, inspiring subsequent generations of Black women aspiring to break into the country music scene. Figures like Rissi Palmer and Rhiannon Giddens stand as testaments to Martell's enduring legacy, each carving out their own space in a genre historically dominated by white artists.

For years, Martell's music remained largely inaccessible to the broader public, a footnote in the history of country music history. However, efforts to unearth her work gained traction in the digital age, with platforms like YouTube providing newfound exposure to a new generation of listeners. Martell's significance was further highlighted in mainstream media, with her important role highlighted in films and honored at prestigious industry events.


Beyoncé's Role in Preservation and Evolution

Beyoncé's decision to spotlight Martell in "Cowboy Carter" aligns with her broader artistic ethos of honoring the past while pushing the boundaries of creative evolution. Martell's narrative is emblematic of the interplay between preservation and innovation that characterizes the country music genre—a balance that Beyoncé deftly navigates in her own musical journey.

As Martell's story enjoys a resurgence in the limelight, her granddaughter, Quia Thompson, embarks on a cinematic exploration of her grandmother's legacy. The documentary, titled "Bad Case of the Country Blues," promises to delve deeper into Martell's career, ensuring that her indelible mark on country music history endures for generations to come.

A Grateful Acknowledgment

For Martell, this unexpected resurgence represents a poignant validation of her enduring impact on country music. In an era where her contributions were often overlooked, Beyoncé's homage serves as a heartfelt tribute to Martell's resilience and artistry—a fitting acknowledgment from one icon to another.

In an Instagram post, Martell expressed her gratitude, acknowledging Beyoncé's role in reigniting interest in her music. As she basks in the renewed attention, Martell stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of music to transcend barriers of race and time.


"It's Beyoncé, after all," Martell quips with a hint of pride, as she embraces her newfound renaissance in the heart of country music.

Beyonce country musicians Cowboy Carter Black Women in Music