Linda Martell will be honored at the 2021 CMT Music Awards on Wednesday night (June 9) with the CMT Equal Play Award. The moment is meant to recognize the singer's achievements as a Black woman in country music in the 1970s.

Martell released her debut country album, Color Me Country, on Plantation Records, in 1970. 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. She was also the first Black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry and appear on Hee Haw — but after releasing Color Me Country, she ebbed into relative obscurity, and has spent much of the rest of her life living in South Carolina, surrounded by her family.

In May, Martell's granddaughter, Marquia Thompson, launched a GoFundMe to finance a documentary about her grandmother's life and career. The doc, Thompson writes, is an "opportunity to OWN and tell her OWN story."

“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,” says CMT's Senior Vice President of Music & Talent Leslie Fram. "Linda embodies the spirit of our Equal Play Initiative, and we are proud to honor her with this prestigious award."

Martell will be tributed during the 2021 CMT Music Awards by Rissi Palmer, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Jennifer Nettles and Rhiannon Giddens, and Mickey Guyton will present the award. Nettles received the inaugural CMT Equal Play Award in 2020.

"Equal play is imperative to the genre. It's how we go forward and paint a broader, more complex picture of what country music is and who country music represents," Palmer says. "Thank you, Linda, for being brave, fearless, talented and beautiful, and for putting yourself out there, even when it was difficult. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award."

The CMT Equal Play Award is an extension of the TV network and digital brand's Equal Play Initiative, launched in 2019 as a response to the lack of female representation within country music. The initiative sees CMT committing to equal play for men and women on all of its platforms.

The 2021 CMT Awards are being co-hosted by Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini and will air live on CMT, MTV, MTV2, Logo, Paramount Network and TV Land beginning at 8PM ET. Performers at the awards show will include Chris Stapleton and H.E.R., Lady A with Carly Pearce and Lindsay Ell, and others. Winners at the CMT Music Awards are determined by fan voting.

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