The late Roberta Martin was a gospel pianist, composer and arranger who helped launch the careers of others within her genre. Today is the Arkansas native’s birthday.
Martin was born in the town of Helena. In 1917, her family relocated to Chicago and she began studying the piano with hopes of becoming a concert pianist. However, her time in the church and a meeting with “The Father of Gospel Music” Thomas A. Dorsey and Theodore Frye landed her in the Chicago-based Young People’s Choir as a pianist. This pivotal moment led to her forming a vocal quartet alongside Frye as the composer.
In 1936, the quartet was renamed The Roberta Martin Singers and the trajectory of her career from the point forward skyrocketed. Between the ‘40’s and ’50s, the group had a bevy of hit sings including “Try Jesus, He Satisfies,” “Only A Look,” and “God Is Still On The Throne” among others.
Martin was stricken with cancer and briefly retired but returned to create one final album in “Praise God” in which she performed as a vocalist. The disease took her life at the age of 61 in January, 1969. Martin’s legacy was solidified due to over 70 songs and 200 arrangements she left behind.
The Roberta Martin Singers disbanded after her death, but singers Delois Barrett and Gloria Griffin went on to have solid careers.
In July 1998, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Martin.
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