Loretta Lynn, country queen, and coal miner’s daughter, dies.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE (AP) – Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter whose candid songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia lifted her out of poverty and established her as a country music icon, has died. She was 90 years old.
Lynn’s family confirmed in a letter to The Associated Press that she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
“Our lovely mom, Loretta Lynn, died quietly in her sleep this morning, October 4th, at home on her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” the family said in a statement. They have requested privacy as they grieve and have stated that a memorial will be announced later.
Lynn already had four children before launching her career in the early 1960s, and her songs reflect her pride in her rural Kentucky background.
She established a persona of a fiercely tough woman as a composer, in contrast to the traditional image of most female country artists. The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote openly about sex and love, unfaithful husbands, divorce, and birth control, and occasionally got into controversy with radio programmers for topics that even rock stars shied away from.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “The Pill,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Rated X,” and “You’re Looking at Country” were among her biggest singles in the 1960s and 1970s. She was noted for wearing floor-length gowns with intricate embroidery or rhinestones, many of which were designed by her longtime personal assistant and designer, Tim Cobb.
Her sincerity and distinct presence in country music were acknowledged. She was the genre’s first female entertainer of the year, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.
“That’s what I wanted to hear, and I knew what other women wanted to hear,” Lynn told the Associated Press in 2016. “I didn’t write for males; I wrote for ladies like us.” And the men enjoyed it as well.”
She released her autobiography “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in 1969, which helped her achieve her largest audience to date.
“We were poor, but we had love/Daddy made sure of that/He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar,” she sang.
The title of her 1976 book, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was adapted into a 1980 film of the same name. Sissy Spacek’s performance as Lynn earned her an Academy Award nomination, and the film was nominated for best picture.
Lynn received two Grammys in 2005 for her album “Van Lear Rose,” which had 13 songs she authored, including “Portland, Oregon,” about a wild one-night encounter. “Van Lear Rose” collaborated with rocker Jack White, who produced and played guitar on the record.
Reba McEntire was among the celebrities who expressed grief over Lynn’s death, writing on social media about how the singer reminded her of her late mother. “Strong ladies who adored their children and were devoted to them.” They can now see each other in Heaven and talk about how they were raised and how different country music is now from what it was when they were younger. It makes me happy that Mama went first to greet Loretta in the screams of heaven!”
Loretta Webb, the second of eight children, claimed she was born in Butcher Holler, near the coal mining company town of Van Lear in the eastern Kentucky mountains. However, there was no Butcher Holler. Later, she informed a reporter that she made up the name for the song based on the names of the families that lived there.
Her father played the banjo, her mother the guitar, and she grew up listening to Carter Family music. Crystal Gayle, her younger sister, is also a Grammy-winning country singer who has had crossover success with songs like “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and “Half the Way.” Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell was also a songwriter and producer of some of her albums.
“I suppose I was singing when I was born,” she told the Associated Press in 2016. “Daddy would come out on the porch where I was singing and rocking the infants to sleep.” ‘Loretta, shut that big mouth,’ he’d remark. You can’t be heard throughout this yell.’ And I said, “Daddy, what difference does it make? They are all my cousins.’”
She claimed in her autobiography that she was 13 when she married Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, but the Associated Press later unearthed state records proving she was 15. In the biopic, Tommy Lee Jones portrayed Mooney Lynn.
Her husband, whom she referred to as “Doo” or “Doolittle,” encouraged her to sing professionally and assisted in promoting her early career. She was able to land a recording contract with Decca Records, later MCA, and play on the Grand Ole Opry stage thanks to his assistance. Lynn penned and published her first hit track, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” in 1960.
She also collaborated with vocalist Conway Twitty to form one of country music’s most popular duos, with hits including “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” and “After the Fire is Gone,” which earned them a Grammy Award. Their duets, as well as her singles, were always mainstream country, never crossover or pop-tinged.
When Lynn first started singing at the Grand Ole Opry, country icon Patsy Cline took her under her wing and trained her.
She was named artist of the decade for the 1970s by the Academy of Country Music, and she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. She was elected into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, honoured at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Lynn threatens another woman with a hair-pulling fistfight in “Fist City,” saying, “I’m here to tell you, gal, to lay off of my man/If you don’t want to go to Fist City.” Other Lynn songs include her strong-willed but typical country woman. Lynn talks about being sick of being imprisoned at home to care for babies in “The Pill,” a song about sex and birth control: “The feelin’ wonderful comes easy now/Since I’ve got the pill,” she sang.
In the 1990s, she relocated to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where she established a ranch complete with a reproduction of her childhood home and a museum that is a popular roadside tourist stop. There are also the gowns she was known to wear.
Lynn knew that her songs were groundbreaking, particularly in country music, but she was only singing the truth that so many rural women like her had lived.
“Because I worked at the clubs, I could see other ladies going through the same thing.” “I wasn’t the only one living that life, and I’m not the only one who’s going to be living
what I’m writin’,” she told The Associated Press in 1995.
Lynn never seemed to quit writing even in her older years, landing a multi-album deal with Legacy Records, a part of Sony Music Entertainment, in 2014. She suffered a stroke in 2017 that prompted her to cease touring, but she will release her 50th solo studio album, “Still Woman Enough,” in 2021.
She and her husband married for nearly 50 years before he died in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest, Clara, and twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.