26 September 1925
Glendale, Maricopa County, Arizona, United States
8 December 1982 (aged 57)
Martin David Robinson (September 26, 1925 – December 8, 1982), known professionally as Marty Robbins, was an American singer, songwriter, actor, multi-instrumentalist, and NASCAR racing driver. Robbins was one of the most popular and successful country and western singers for most of his nearly four-decade career, which spanned from the late 1940s to the early 1980s.
Born in Glendale, Arizona, Robbins taught himself guitar while serving in the United States Navy during World War II, and subsequently drew fame performing in clubs in and around his hometown. In 1956, he released his first No. 1 country song, "Singing the Blues" and one year later, released two more No. 1 hits, "A White Sport Coat" and "The Story of My Life". In 1959, Robbins released his signature song, "El Paso", for which he won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. Later releases that drew critical acclaim include "Don't Worry", "Big Iron" and "Honkytonk Man", the last for which the 1982 Clint Eastwood film is named, and in which Robbins made his final appearance before death.
Over the course of his career, Robbins recorded more than 500 songs and 60 albums, and won two Grammy Awards, was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was named the 1960s Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music. Robbins was a commercial success in both the country and pop genres, and his songs were covered by many other famous artists, including Johnny Cash, the Grateful Dead and Elvis Presley. His music continues to have an influence in pop culture today, having recently appeared in several contemporary pop culture features, including the video game Fallout: New Vegas, and the series finale of AMC's Breaking Bad.
Robbins was born in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix in Maricopa County, Arizona. His mother was mostly of Paiute Indian heritage. Robbins grew up in a difficult family situation. His father took odd jobs to support the family of 10 children; however, his hard drinking led to divorce in 1937. Among his warmer memories of his childhood, Robbins recalled having listened to stories of the American West told by his maternal grandfather, Texas Bob Heckle, who was a local medicine man. At 17, Robbins left his troubled home to serve in the United States Navy as an LCT coxswain during World War II. He was stationed in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. To pass the time during the war, he learned to play the guitar, started writing songs, and came to love Hawaiian music.
Robbins' discography consists of 52 studio albums, 13 compilation albums, and 100 singles. In his career, Robbins charted 17 Number One singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, as well as 82 Top 40 singles.
Robbins' highest charting album is 1959's Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. It charted to #6 on the all-genre Billboard 200, and was also certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album's first single, "El Paso", became a hit on both the country and pop charts, charting to Number One on the Hot Country Songs as well as the Billboard Hot 100. While that would be his only pop Number One, in 1957, "A White Sport Coat" charted to #2, and in 1961, "Don't Worry" charted to #3.
His final Top 10 single was "Honkytonk Man" from the 1982 eponymous film in which Robbins had a role. He died shortly before its release. Since his death, four posthumous studio albums have been released, but they made no impact on the charts.
Robbins married Marizona "Mari" Baldwin on September 27, 1948. They had two children, Ronny and Janet, and were married 34 years until his death.
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