Songwriter Naomi Martin Yonts passed away on May 31 after a career that spanned decades in country music. Martin, like many talented songwriters, isn’t a household word, but her songs were known and loved by many fans of traditional country music. Martin wasn’t a flash in the pan celebrity, though.
Her success serves as an inspiration to others because Martin was in her forties before she made her mark.
Born in Virginia in 1927, Martin moved to Nashville in 1966. As the United States struggled politically, songs by country music stars like Buck Owens and newcomers like Merle Haggard offered comfort to the heartland. Nashville itself was undergoing change, and Martin’s work was timely. It took Martin—she wrote under this surname—less than two years after moving to Nashville to see her songs hit the charts.
“During the late 1960s, her songs were recorded by Leona Williams, Jeannie C. Riley, Dee Mullins, Paul Martin and r&b star Johnny Adams.
Martin’s first sizable hit was Jeannie C. Riley’s version of “Roses and Thorns,” which reached No. 15 on the country chart in 1971. Others who recorded her tunes during the 1970s included Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius, Freddy Fender, Kitty Wells and B.J. Thomas. Following Milsap’s hit with the song, “Let’s Take the Long Way Around the World” was recorded as a duet by Kenny Rogers & Dottie West.
In the 1980s, Naomi Martin’s songs were recorded by Ray Price, John Conlee, Porter Wagoner, T.G. Sheppard, Faron Young, Milsap and Barbara Mandrell.”
Ultimately Martin started her own music company, and she had a good eye for talent. She signed Blake Shelton and played a role in his first productions.
Legacy.com reported a musical tribute will be held Thursday, June 8 at 1 p.m. at St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church(4800 Belmont Park Terrace, Nashville, TN 37215).
Martin loved music long before she saw any commercial success. Her life and work serve as inspiration to those who struggle to make their mark in a competitive industry undergoing drastic changes as pop and new country meld in the corporate entertainment arena.
(KBD/June 5, 2017)