Beyoncé pays tribute to black country artist Linda Martell in 'Cowboy Carter'

On her new album, Cowboy Carter , Beyoncé emphasizes country music's black roots, as reflected in the song "The Linda Martell Show."

Linda Martell is considered the first black female artist to achieve commercial success in country music. In July 1969, she released her first single, "Color Him Father," which nearly reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. More than 50 years later, Beyoncé became the first black woman to top the chart with "Poker."

Riding on the success of her first two singles, Martell released her first (and only) album Color Me Country in 1970, which reached the top 40 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. name. She became the first black woman to perform at Nashville's famed institution, the Grand Ole Opry, where she performed 12 times.

Although she quietly made history, Martell was one of the first black performers in a predominantly white genre, which meant she encountered significant resistance at the time.

Why Linda Martell left the industry

Linda Martell poses for a portrait in Nashville, Tennessee, circa 1969. Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone — her first in nearly 50 years — Martell reflected on her experiences with racism in the music industry. She recalled how she was heckled during her first live performance, the first of many incidents.

"I remember it very clearly," she said. "You sing, they call out names, you know what they're going to call you. You get hecklers, I've had it too. Calling names . That's another thing. You feel bad," she said. There were also issues with her former record label, which ultimately banned her from the country world after she tried to record a song for her new label.

After receiving hate and limited success, Martell decided to retire from the Nashville music scene. She still performs in small venues around the country and holds various music-related jobs, such as opening her own record store and performing on cruise ships. But in 1991, she moved to South Carolina to be closer to her children and has lived there ever since, even working in public schools for a few years.

Beyoncé faces similar backlash

Natalie Maines and Beyoncé perform at the 2016 Country Music Awards. Los Angeles Picture Group/Disney Universal Entertainment Content/Getty Images

Beyoncé has never spoken publicly about Martell, but she has previously spoken out about the backlash she received from the Nashville industry after performing at the 2016 Country Music Awards, making Martell's addition an inspiring one. choose.

“Because of that experience, I learned more about the history of country music and researched our rich musical archives,” she wrote on Instagram. “It’s great to see how music unites so many people around the world while also amplifying the voices of some who have dedicated their lives to educating us about the history of music.”