Tina Bell, the Black Woman Who Invented Grunge Music, Finally Receives Some Recognition

by Yah Yah

Tina Bell, frontwoman of the Seattle, Washington-based band, grunge group Bam Bam, is finally receiving some recognition for her contributions toward the genre and music.

If you look up “grunge” on Wikipedia, it is cited as “an alternative rock genre and subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American Pacific Northwest state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns.”

And while record label Subpop is credited with pioneering the sound, Bell and her group, Bam Bam, are not given so much as a slight nod. Bell sadly passed away in 2012.

Founded in 1983, Bell served as the singer and songwriter for the band alongside her husband Tommy Martin and lifelong friend Scott Ledgerwood (“Scotty Buttocks”).

“Tina had an inspirational aura about her that was absolutely regal, but without arrogance,” Scotty told PleaseKillMe journalist Jen. B Larson last September. “Even when she was ‘raging’ on stage, her movement was so fluid and graceful. She had such confidence on stage; I’d feed off her strength. If a crowd didn’t know us or respond well, she’d lead us on with more ferocity!”

Bam Bam’s first drummer, Matt Camry, sat down to speak with CBS This Morning for the network’s recent tribute to Bell.

“Bam, bam. I thought always fit in really, really well with that kind of early formation of what became, you know, the Seattle rock revolution,” he explained. Camry went on to play for some of rock’s biggest bands, including Pearl Jam and Soundgarden — who were undoubtedly influenced by Tina Bell and Bam Bam.

The lack of recognition did not go unnoticed by Bell.

“It literally did [eat away at her,” Ledgerwood told CBS. “They were afraid that America wasn’t ready for a black girl in front of hard band. You know? She’s supposed to be a Hip Hop or a diva queen. She can’t be up there so fierce and beautiful like that. But she was.”

A remastered album of her songs will be released later this year.

Sadly, Tina Bell’s story is nothing new. Black artists have long fought for recognition in the music industry. CBS’s tribute will go some way towards rectifying a longstanding wrong — but oversights such as these are usually intentional and still ongoing.

** Main Image credit: Christina King

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