Who Was Rocker Tina Bell? And Why It Matters.

By Jacob Uitti writing for American Songwriter Oct 10 2021.

"In Seattle, an important, perhaps genre-defining conversation has been going for the past six months about one local artist more than any other. That person is not Macklemore or Ryan Lewis, Ann or Nancy Wilson, Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix. It’s Bam Bam frontwoman, Tina Bell. 
..The energetic stage presence who sang and shrieked and moaned of a troubled, unfair life over sludgy, often dark, brooding guitars and rhythms. And she came years before the big Seattle four of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains.

Bell, who was one of the first to make those sludgy sounds, also dabbled in new wave and punk music. And she was excellent in those, too. So, how was all this talent lost to history? That’s what I’d like to know; not if Bell “invented grunge.” 

The reality of an art form is that no one person starts an entire genre by themselves; there are always influences and helpful contemporaries. As the proto-grunge sounds and styles and swagger were being shaped in the Northwest, Bell was there, very much contributing to it, day in and day out. 

It’s silly—unfair, even—to hold Bell’s legacy up to the standard of Godmother-of-Grunge or bust. There are plenty of perfectly good and noteworthy Northwest bands who get love from fans who didn’t have to invent an entire genre. We remember many of them but somehow we lost Tina. 

I’m not interested in whether Tina Bell started grunge or why Matt Cameron ultimately left the band. I’m much more interested in why whatever Tina and Bam Bam were doing in the ‘80s, which from all accounts was influential and interesting, was almost entirely forgotten until recently? How could that happen? 

And even if we never find an answer to why Bell and Bam Bam were lost for decades, let’s collectively make sure moving forward that it doesn’t happen again". 

(these are excerpts; follow link to complete article) 


The first African American women to front a punk grunge, hard rock band in the US. Greatest female rock singer since Janis Joplin.

Brilliant song writer, lyricist, performer;  The Queen of grunge punk, she fronted Seattle grunge pioneers Bam Bam 1983-1990. 

Tina Bell first found her voice singing in choir at the Mount Zion Baptist Church of Seattle. Her first stage experience was not in a band, but performing with The Langston Hughes Theater, also in Seattle. 

In 1984 Tina Bell and her band Bam Bam recorded & released one of the first pieces of vinyl on Seattle's early grunge scene; THE first from famed Reciprocal Recording Studios in Seattle. (the ep "Villains also wear white"). 

Despite years of dedication, innovative music and packed shows, acceptance for Tina was elusive. People simply weren't ready for her yet. 
The lack of recognition eventually took its toll on Bell. She retired from music  in 1990. 

In 2012, her (& Bam Bam guitarist Tommy Martin's) son TJ Martin won the Academy Award for Best Director of a Feature Length Documentary for his film Undefeated. ABC aired a portion of Tina Bell's final interview during the Academy Awards broadcast. 

Tina Bell died Oct 2012 while plans were underway for a Bam Bam reunion. 

Tina Marie Bell, 1957-2012. 

"Ahead of Tina's HBO premiere, directors Lindsay and Martin hopped on a Zoom call with Billboard (the latter rocking a t-shirt from a different trailblazing Tina, that of his mother Tina Bell, the pioneering Black woman who fronted early '80 grunge band Bam Bam)".

from: 'Tina' Doc's Oscar-Winning Directors on Bringing a Fresh POV to Tina Turner's Life. Joe Lynch writing for Billboard. Mar 25, 2021 

The TINA BELL Wikipedia page is BACK UP TO STAY!!

I can't thank Matthew Ward enough for his diligence in researching info and correcting some of the numerous errors/omissions on the page. (Matthew's an administrator for Pacific Northwest Music Archives AND he's an official Wikipedia contributor). 
Extra thanks to you Matthew for asking me about Tina's early influences and adding that crucial info to her page. 

Both The Mount Zion Baptist Church Choir and Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle were critical to Tina's development as an artist.🖤 
Tina's unique combination of Gospel, goth and punk rock is one of the many things that made her so special and she got her first stage experience with the Langston Hughes Seattle group.  
Thanks also to journalists/writers Tânia Seles (Brazil Rocks!), Jen Larson, Stephanie Siek, Samantha Hollins and Hrvoje Bubić, with HUGE HUGS to KEXP's Larry Mizell Jr. and Eva Walker.

Tina Bell | The Woman Who Invented Grunge

Nice YouTube mini documentary on Tina Bell & Bam Bam..

Tina Bell | The Woman Who Invented Grunge. 
Miss Ann Thrope, youtube channel, May 23, 2021. 

40 Black Rock-Hers Who Are Shaking It Up! Tina Bell #5. BLACK ROCKERS UNITED. April 9, 2021.

"We're posthumously watching her ripple effect today, shaking up the scene.

Bam Bam just signed with Bric-A-Brac Records! Congratulations and rock on out there! RIP, Tina Bell".

"Tina Bell was a talented musician who started the group Bam Bam with Tommy Martin, TJ’s father. Bam Bam was a revolutionary Seattle grunge band that remains a core part of the area’s music history".

From: TJ Martin’s Tinas. Chase Hutchinson writing for The Stranger. Apr 6, 2021.

Tina Bell

This week I had the honor of being interviewed by Samantha Hollins of The Culture Rock Griot to talk about Bam Bam and the incomparable Tina Bell. Feb 5 is her birthday: Happy Birthday Tina Bell!! Thank you and much love to Samantha Hollins.

"Tina Bell; a pioneering Black woman in grunge".

Fazer Aqui, Joinville Brazil, June 6, 2019

Joinville receives 1st edition of Expor Rock Black Women in Underground, an initiative of Projeto Negras in Underground created by Ana Paula Porfirio. It will show 5 references of Black women in various musical genres in the form of visual art by Sap Paulo artist Jessical Lisboa. They are Sister Rosseta Tharpe, the "mother of rock"; Poly Styrene with punk rock; Tina Bell, a pioneering Black woman in grunge; Skin, lead singer if Skunk Anansie bringing alternative rock; and Cammie Gilbert, the dark metgal goddess of progressive metal, lead singer of Oceans of Slumber. 

Tina Bell listed in Brazil's Enciclopédiadaspretasnorock aka Encyclopedia of black rock.

Evento Black Underground promove representatividade feminina e negra. - (Black Underground event promotes female and Black representation).

Bam Bam singer Tina Bell is featured along side Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Tina Turner and Poly Styrene.  

O Mirante, Joinville Brasil. October 28, 2019. 

Tina Bell pics

Tina Bell honored as one of the "Black Pioneers of Rock". by HECreative, Burnhanm-on-Crouch, Essex England. -SOLD OUT-