Loretta Lynn, coal miner's daughter turned country queen, dies at 90

Loretta Lynn, coal miner’s daughter turned country queen, dies at 90



CNN

Loretta Lynn, the “coal miner’s daughter” whose gritty lyrics and shrill, unassuming voice made her a country music queen for seven decades, has died. She was 90.

Lynn’s family said in a statement to CNN that she died Tuesday at her home in Tennessee.

“Our precious mother, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4, in her sleep at her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” the statement read.

They asked for privacy as they mourn and said a memorial will be announced later.

Lynn, who had no formal musical training but spent hours every day singing her babies to sleep, was known for churning out highly textured songs in a matter of minutes. She only wrote what she knew.

Living in poverty for much of her early life, she began having children at age 17 and spent years married to a man prone to drink and love affairs, all of which became material for her outspoken songs. Lynn’s life was rich in experiences that most country stars of the day hadn’t had, but were intimately known to her fans.

“So when I sing those country songs about women struggling to keep things going, you could say I’ve been there,” she wrote in her early memoir, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” “Like I say, I know what it’s like to be pregnant, nervous and poor.”

Lynn scored hits with fiery songs like “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” which topped the country charts in 1966 and made her the first country singer to write a number one hit.

Their songs recounted family history, criticized lousy husbands, and pitied women, wives, and mothers around the world. His tell-it-what-is style got songs like “Rated X” and “The Pill” banned from radio, even as they became beloved classics.

“I wasn’t the first woman in country music,” Lynn told Esquire in 2007. “I was just the first to stand up there and speak my mind, what life was all about.”

Loretta Webb was born in 1932, one of eight Webb children raised in Butcher Hollow in the Appalachian mining town of Van Lear, Kentucky. Growing up, Lynn sang at church and at home, even when her father protested that everyone in Butcher Hollow could hear.

His family had little money. But those early years were some of his best memories, as he recounts in his 1971 hit, “The Coal Miner’s Daughter”: “We were poor but we had love; That’s the one thing Dad made sure of.”

As a young teenager, Loretta met the love of her life in Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, whom she affectionately called “Doo”. The couple married when Lynn was 15, a fact cleared up in 2012, after the Associated Press discovered that Lynn was a few years older than she had claimed in her memoir, and Lynn gave birth to the first of her six children on the same day. year.

“When I got married, I didn’t even know what it meant to be pregnant,” said Lynn, who had four children in the first four years of marriage and a set of twins years later.

“I was five months pregnant when I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You’re going to have a baby.’ I said, ‘No way. I can’t have a baby. He said, ‘Aren’t you married?’ Yes. He said, ‘Do you sleep with your husband?’ Yes. You’re having a baby, Loretta. Believe me.’ And I did it.”

The couple soon headed to Washington state in search of work. Music was not a priority for the young mother at first. She spent her days working, mostly picking strawberries in Washington state while her babies sat on a blanket nearby.

But when her husband heard her humming tunes and lulling their babies to sleep, he said she sounded better than the singers on the radio. He bought her a $17 Harmony guitar and got her a gig at a local tavern.

It wasn’t until 1960 that she would record what would become her debut single, “Honky Tonk Girl”. She then took the song on tour, playing country music stations across the United States.

After years of hard work and child rearing, telling stories with his guitar seemed like a break.

“Singing was easy,” Lynn told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2010. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is an easy job.’ ”

The success of her first single brought Lynn to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and, soon, to a contract with Decca Records. She quickly befriended country star Patsy Cline, who guided her through the fame and fashion of country stardom until her shocking death in a plane crash in 1963.

Cline “was my only girlfriend at the time. She took me under her wing, and when I lost her, it was something else. I still miss her to this day,” Lynn told The Denver Post in 2009. “I wrote ‘You’re not woman enough to take my man,’ and she was like, ‘Loretta, that’s a fucking hit.’ She surprised me, because you don’t expect someone like Patsy Cline to tell you that you have a hit. Immediately after her death, I put the record out and it was a hit.”

Lynn’s struggle and success became legend, an oft-repeated tale of youth, naivete, and poverty.

From “Fist City” to “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” Lynn always sang from the heart, whether she was berating a woman interested in Doo or honoring her Appalachian roots. But her music was far from conventional.

She upset the conservative country establishment with songs like “Rated X,” about the stigma fun-loving women face after divorce, and “The Pill,” in which a woman toasts her newfound freedom from control of Birth rate: “They didn’t have any of those pills when I was younger, or I would have been popping them like popcorn,” Lynn wrote in her memoir.

She documented her upbringing in the 1976 memoir “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” co-written with George Vecsey. A 1980 biopic of the same name won an Academy Award for actress Sissy Spacek and brought Lynn further fame. Lynn’s success also helped launch the music careers of her sisters, Peggy Sue Wright and Crystal Gayle.

Lynn’s legend came under fire in 2012 when The Associated Press reported that on census records, a birth certificate and a marriage license, Lynn was three years older than most biographies said. It didn’t spoil Lynn’s success, but it made the oft-repeated stories about her teen marriage and her motherhood less extreme.

“I never, ever thought of being a role model,” Lynn told the San Antonio Express-News in 2010. “I wrote about life, how things were in my life. I could never understand why others didn’t write down what they knew.”

Lynn always credited her husband with giving her the confidence to step onto the stage for the first time as a young performer. She also spoke in interviews and in her music about the pain he caused her during her nearly 50-year marriage. Doolittle Lynn died in 1996 after years of complications from heart problems and diabetes.

In her 2002 memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” Lynn wrote that he was an alcoholic who cheated on her and beat her, even when she hit him back. Ella but she stayed with him until her death, telling NPR in 2010 that “he’s in there somewhere” in every song she wrote.

“We fought one day and loved each other the next, so I mean… to me, that’s a good relationship,” he told NPR. “If they can’t fight, if they can’t tell each other what’s on their mind, well, their relationship isn’t that big of a deal anyway.”

Lynn won numerous awards throughout her career, including three Grammy Awards and many honors from the Academy of Country Music. She won Grammy Awards for her 1971 duet with Conway Twitty, “After the Fire is Gone,” and for the 2004 album “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with Jack White of the White Stripes that introduced her to a new generation of fans.

President Barack Obama then awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Loretta Lynn in 2013.

She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988, and her song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, and in 2013 , received the Presidential Medal of Freedom award.

President Barack Obama said that Lynn “gave a voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to speak and saying what no one wanted to think.”

His career and legend continued to grow in his later years as he recorded new songs, toured constantly, and attracted loyal audiences well into his 80s. A museum and rancho for tourists are dedicated to Lynn at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

“Working keeps you young,” he told Esquire in 2007. “I’m never going to stop. And when he does, it will be right on stage. That will be it.

Lynn was hospitalized in 2017 after suffering a stroke at home. The following year she broke her hip. Her health forced her to stop traveling.

In early 2021, at the age of 89, she recorded her 50th album, “Still Woman Enough”.

The title track, which she sang alongside successors Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire, sounded like a mission statement that captures the spirit of her career:

“I am still woman enough, I still have what it takes inside;

I know how to love, lose and survive;

There is not much that I have not seen, I have not tried;

I’ve been shot down, but never knocked out;

I am strong, but I am tender;

Wise, but I am hard;

And let me tell you when it comes to love;

I’m still woman enough.”

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