Historians Mary Bufwack and Robert Oermann wrote that Loretta Lynn’s secret “is in her honesty.” Her femininity gives her strength. Her pride stems from her working-class upbringing.” She gained superstardom like no other female singer before her, including her mentor Patsy Cline. Her sharp lyrics, earthy humor, and woman-centered perspective changed country music, producing 79 charting albums, including 52 Top 10s and 16 No. 1s.
Loretta was born in a two-room log cabin in a small coal-mining hamlet in eastern Kentucky, named after Loretta Young and delivered by “Old Aunt Harriet,” an 80-year-old blind midwife. She worked hard on the farm and in the house, singing old Appalachian ballads and narrative songs she’d learned from her mother and listening to the Grand Ole Opry on a battery-powered radio on Saturday nights. At age 15, she married the first boy she’d ever kissed, returning war veteran “Doolittle” Lynn. They went to Washington state, and she gave birth to three children in four years.
Doolittle recognized Loretta’s talent and purchased her a guitar. She began playing locally soon after and had released her debut record by early 1960. To promote it, she and Doolittle distributed copies to radio stations across the country and an image of Loretta. They then set out to do it in person, sleeping in their car, subsisting on baloney and cheese sandwiches, and stopping at every country radio station they could locate. Loretta laughs, “Sometimes I’d sit there for three or four hours before they’d play my album.”
And I walked in one station with my record in the garbage can. The deejay said, “I don’t know. I’ve never heard you sing.” And “I don’t know if this record’s any good or not.” And I told him, I said, “Well like you probably won’t ever find out ‘cause it’s laying in the garbage can!”
Her most controversial song, “The Pill,” was recorded in 1972. Still, record executives delayed releasing it for two years due to concerns about what was considered risqué subject matter at the time. Lynn told Playgirl in 1975 that doctors frequently praised her for the song, stating it had done more to raise awareness of the availability of birth control in rural regions than their own material.
Loretta received CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award in 1967, 1972, and 1973. In 1976, she published her best-selling autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, which was ultimately adapted into a successful film four years later. She was crowned CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1972, making her the first woman to receive the honor. She was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Born: April 14, 1932, Butcher Hollow, Kentucky