Linda Martell’s Granddaughter Launches GoFundMe to Tell Pioneering Singer’s Story in New Documentary
Linda Martell's granddaughter has launched a GoFundMe campaign to finance a documentary about the pioneering Black female country artist. The project aims to tell Martell's story -- in her own words.
During the 2020 CMA Awards, Martell got an unexpected shoutout from Maren Morris, who used an acceptance speech to spotlight the singer's pioneering career, as well as to name off several other talented Black women. "I'm just a fan of their music, and they are country as it gets, and I just want them all to know how much we love them back ... There are so many amazing Black women that pioneered and continued to pioneer this genre ... Thank you for making me so inspired as a singer in this genre," Morris said that night.
Morris' speech brought renewed interest in Martell's life and career, writes her granddaughter, Marquia Thompson, leading some publications and other media companies to reach out to the singer and her family in hopes of spotlighting her. Now, Thompson is at work compiling footage of her country legend grandmother -- which she began collecting as a family keepsake -- into a documentary.
"Recently, in a time where social justice may be a bigger conversation than it has ever been and after country singer Maren Morris gave a much appreciated and long overdue shoutout to Ms. Martell, she's garnered more attention for her contribution to country music than she ever received in her career," writes Thompson in the GoFundMe, which she established to raise money for the project.
"Publications reach out wanting to do stories, Broadway play and films, and although flattering and very much appreciated, Linda deserves something more ... something better than what the country music industry offered her ... An opportunity to really be heard," Thompson continues. "The opportunity to OWN and tell her OWN story. This fundraiser is helping Linda do just that."
In 1970, Martell released her debut country album, Color Me Country, on Plantation Records. The project produced three charting singles and earned the singer her first and only Billboard Hot Country Songs Top 30 hit with her version of "Color Him Father," a song that had been a hit for the soul group the Winstons the year prior.
While Black artists have seen some success within country music in recent years -- Charley Pride's "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" topped the Hot Country Songs chart in 1971, and artists such as Ray Charles, Darius Rucker, Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen have since also accomplished the same feat -- the industry was and remains dominated by white male performers and executives. Black artists still receive slim airplay compared to their white counterparts, and when it comes to Black women in the genre, the gap is even more glaring.
Given the statistics for Black artists in country -- and particularly Black female artists -- Martell's chart success would be noteworthy today, and in 1970, it was even moreso. She was the first Black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, appear on Hee Haw and grace the genre's other hallowed stages during the course of her career. Yet, after releasing Color Me Country, Martell ebbed into relative obscurity, and has spent much of the rest of her life living in South Carolina, surrounded by her family.
Thompson's documentary is currently in the works, with interviews for the project scheduled throughout the summer. Martell's website offers regular updates on its progress.
In addition to chronicling the singer's story as a way for future fans to learn about her work, the documentary is an opportunity for Martell to regain control over her artistry. "[Support of this fundraiser] would mean that my family has a chance to help my grandmother regain control over her voice, as for years it has been taken and used to benefit almost everyone involved in her career but her," Thompson concludes.