A petite Canadian sits in her favorite chair. She gently twirls her youthful, thick, silver hair in a posh mod pixie cut. She gazes out the window overlooking her stunning backyard garden off Nashville’s West End. She sips a cup of tea, and as she pulls out a cigarette her cat jumps off her lap. “Fuck,” she sighs, searching for a lighter. Dubbed “the best female cusser” by Vince Gill, Mary Martin was born with a bold tongue, green thumb, fearless spirit, heart of gold and an ear for iconic music.
The story of the woman behind some of music’s most iconic artists and greatest songs begins to unfold in front of us. The Toronto native moved to New York City in the 1960’s, where she began working for legendary music manager Albert Grossman.
Martin’s friend, Country Music Hall of Fame executive, Jay Orr, explains, “She played a key role in connecting Bob Dylan with the Band. She managed Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill at crucial stages of their careers. She signed Emmylou Harris to Warner Bros. Records at the outset of her illustrious Hall of Fame run. From Canada to New York to Nashville, Mary has touched and changed lives inside and outside of the music business.”
Mary’s storied career also includes encouraging Keith Urban to move from Australia to Nashville and recording Cohen’s demo in her bathtub.
In the midst of the current international climate and women’s movement, the visionary record executive shaped more than just Americana, folk, and country music history. Mary’s career and life nearly went silent in April 1992 when a stranger broke into her Nashville home and assaulted her.
"Before I knew it, this mutt was on top of me,” Mary explains. After surviving the heinous rape at age 53 and subsequent harassment by her offender before his arrest, Mary had to relive the unimaginable pain throughout the past 25 years as she faced her attacker through the grueling justice system, parole hearings and nightmares.
In her darkest hour she continued to shed light as a crime victims’ advocate and by sharing her story. Once again she unintentionally became a pioneer. Metro Nashville and Tennessee leaders recognize Mary as the catalyst for implementing statewide parole hearing video conferencing for victims.
Mary’s heartbreakingly intense and courageous journey as a sexual assault survivor continues with the release of the convicted rapist in August 2018 after serving the maximum sentencing for the time.
Mary’s story doesn’t end on that note. Though her active participation in the music industry declined after the assault, Martin went on to receive a Grammy in 2002 for co-producing the Hank Williams Tribute, Timeless. She also produced a critically acclaimed follow-up album and has been widely honored with several awards including lifetime achievements from the Americana Music Association, SOURCE, and The Country Music Hall of Fame.
Mary Martin’s longtime and revered friends and colleagues, like Joe Galante, Steve Earle, Loree Gold, and many more, explain how Martin’s influence in the music industry is just part of her story. Mary sets aside her tough exterior and opens up about major life experiences, from losing her beloved father at the age of ten to her older brother’s violent murder in the 1970’s. Mary’s career and, personal life shed light on many of today’s critical topics such as #MeToo, women’s rights, immigration, crime victims’ rights, the Music Modernization Act, and the NFL.
One fearless woman’s life creates a legacy and impact on American music and the criminal justice system fueled by the power of the human spirit. Even in the most challenging times Mary reminds us that we are stronger than we ever imagined, especially when we just stop to listen to what her ears heard.