Mickey Guyton presented the accolade, narrating the story of Martell’s legendary career within music and beyond. Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Jennifer Nettles, Rhiannon Giddens and Rissi Palmer all gave shoutouts to the icon as they poured their hearts out in regards to her groundbreaking accomplishments within the music industry.
Martell was not able to accept in Nashville, but was proudly presented the award back at home in South Carolina prior to the show.
Martell was the only Black female country artist who broke through the Top 20 on country radio, and the first Black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry.
During her tribute, Martell chronicled her struggles as a Black woman in country music, noting the profanities and racial slurs thrown at her throughout her career. Despite the adversity she faced, she captivated the country community and broke through barriers for future Black artists within the genre.
The multi-artist tribute came as Martell was named the CMT Equal Play recipient. CMT’s Equal Play initiative was originally launched in 2019 in response to the lack of female representation in country music on the radio. Martell is an ideal recipient of the honor as she is the highest-charting solo Black female country artist in Billboard history. She paved the way for many other Black artists in the 1970s and her groundwork continues to do so today.
“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,” said Leslie Fram, Senior Vice President, Music & Talent, CMT. “Linda embodies the spirit of our ‘Equal Play’ initiative and we are proud to honor her with this prestigious award.”
Other performances from country music’s only fan-voted awards show include Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, Kane Brown, Lauren Alaina and more.
The 2021 CMT Awards, hosted by Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini, will air live on Wednesday, June 9 at 8 p.m. ET on CMT, MTV, MTV2, Logo, Paramount Network and TV Land. Voting is open for Video of the Year from now through Wednesday, June 9. Check out a full list of the nominees here.
Sounds Like Nashville will have all of your coverage for the 2021 CMT Music Awards right here.