LifeNotes: Country Songwriter Naomi Martin Passes

Nashville songwriting great Naomi Martin died on May 31 at age 89 following a long illness.

Martin is noted for such BMI Award winning songs as “My Eyes Can Only See As Far As You” by Charley Pride (1976) and “Let’s Take the Long Way Around the World” by Ronnie Milsap (1978). Both of them were No. 1 hits.

She is also outstanding for her longevity in the Nashville music business. Naomi Martin’s career stretched over six decades.

She was a native of Virginia who moved to Nashville with her family in 1966. Within 18 months, she had already written two charted records. 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. One of her most successful co-written songs during this era was “We Fell in Love Anyway,” which was recorded by Cleve Francis & Patti Austin, Lee Greenwood, Rosemary Clooney, Kenny Rogers and David Slater.

Glen Campbell, Conway Twitty, Roy Clark, Twister Alley, Anne Murray, Mandrell and Lorrie Morgan are among the artists who recorded Naomi Martin songs during the 1990s. She also continued to have recordings of her compositions in the 2000s. Eric Hancock, Souls for Christ and Jimmy Payne are among the artists who sang her songs in the first decade of the new millennium.

By this time, her song catalogs with Pi-Gem, Tom Collins Music and Milsap/Galbraith Music had been sold to larger publishers. She founded her own Naomi Martin Music Group, where she signed Blake Shelton to his first song-publishing contract. She helped Shelton to secure his first recording contract and served as executive producer on his earliest studio sessions.

Two of Naomi Martin’s five children became singer-songwriters. Daughter Lisa Dale Yonts recorded as “Dale Daniel” for BNA Records in 1992-94. Son Marty Yonts (1955-2012) had his songs recorded by David Allan Coe and Con Hunley, among others.

Visitation will be held 4-7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, at St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church, 4800 Belmont Park Terrace, Nashville, TN 37215. The musical tribute will be held there at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, with a celebration of life service to begin at 2:00 p.m.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to MusiCares or to the Opry Trust Fund.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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