Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter whose outspoken songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia lifted her out of poverty and made her a country music mainstay, has died. She was 90 years old.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Lynn’s family said she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
Lynn already had four children before launching her career in the early 1960s, and her songs reflected her pride in her rural Kentucky background.
Loretta Lynn poses for a portrait holding a guitar with her name spelled on the neck circa 1961 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
As a songwriter, she shaped the persona of a tough, defiant woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers. The Country Music Hall of Famer fearlessly wrote about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce and birth control and sometimes got into trouble with radio programmers over material including even rock artists have turned away.
Her biggest hits were released in the 1960s and 1970s, including “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 Look at the Country”. She was known for appearing in wide, long dresses with elaborate embroidery or rhinestones, many of which were created by her longtime personal assistant and designer Tim Cobb.
Loretta Lynn attends the 12th Annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on January 28, 1985. (Photo by Lester Cohen/ Getty Images
His honesty and unique place in country music have been rewarded. She was the first woman to be named Artist of the Year at both of the genre’s major award ceremonies, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.
“It was what I wanted to hear and what I knew other women wanted to hear too,” Lynn told the AP in 2016. “I didn’t write for men, I wrote for us women. And the men loved it, too.”
In 1969 she published her autobiography “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which helped her reach her widest audience to date.
“We was poor but we had love/That’s the only thing daddy made sure of/He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s money,” she sang.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter”, also the title of his 1976 book, was made into a 1980 film of the same name. Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of Lynn won her an Oscar, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture.
Long after her commercial heyday, Lynn won two Grammys in 2005 for her album “Van Lear Rose,” which featured 13 songs she wrote, including “Portland, Oregon” on a drunken one-night stand. “Van Lear Rose” was a collaboration with rocker Jack White, who produced the album and played the guitar parts.
U.S. country singer Jack White gives country legend Loretta Lynne a kiss with the awards they won at the Grammys in Los Angeles February 13, 2005. Lynne and White won a set for best country collaboration with the song for the so
Born Loretta Webb, the second of eight children, she claimed her birthplace was Butcher Holler, near the mining town of Van Lear in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. However, there really wasn’t a Butcher Holler. She later told a reporter that she came up with the name for the purposes of the song based on the names of the families who lived there.
Her dad played the banjo, her mom played the guitar, and she grew up on Carter family songs.
“I was singing when I was born, I think,” she told the AP in 2016. “Dad used to go out on the porch where I was singing and rocking the babies to sleep. He said, “Loretta, shut that big mouth. People everywhere in that bawl can hear you. And I said, ‘Dad, what difference does it make? They’re all my cousins.'”
She wrote in her autobiography that she was 13 when she married Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, but the AP later uncovered state documents showing she was 15. Tommy Lee Jones played Mooney Lynn in the biopic.
Loretta Lynn and Oliver Mooney at the party for Loretta Goes Broadway Benefit Concert at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Her husband, whom she called “Doo” or “Doolittle”, urged her to sing professionally and helped promote her early career. With his help, she secured a recording contract with Decca Records, later MCA, and performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Lynn wrote her first hit single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, released in 1960.
She also teamed up with singer Conway Twitty to form one of country music’s most popular duos with hits such as “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” and “After the Fire is Gone,” earning them acclaim. Grammy Award. Their duets, and his singles, were always mainstream country and not crossover or pop-tinged.
The Academy of Country Music selected her as the Artist of the Decade of the 1970s and she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
In “Fist City,” Lynn threatens to fight with her fists if another woman won’t stay away from her man: “I’m here to tell you, girl, fire my man/If you don’t want don’t go to Fist City.” This willful but traditional country country reappears in other Lynn songs. In “The Pill,” a song about sex and birth control, Lynn writes that she’s had enough of being locked up at home to take care of babies: “Wellness comes easy now/Since I have the pill”, she sang.
She moved to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, in the 1990s, where she established a ranch with a replica of her childhood home and a museum that is a popular roadside tourist stop. The dresses she was known to wear are there too.
Lynn knew her songs were trailblazing, especially for country music, but she was simply writing the truth that so many rural women like her have experienced.
“I could see that other women were going through the same thing, because I worked in the clubs. I wasn’t the only one living this life and I’m not the only one living today what I write,” she told the AP in 1995.
Even in her later years, Lynn never seemed to stop writing, scoring a multi-album deal in 2014 with Legacy Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. In 2017, she suffered a stroke which forced her to postpone her shows.
She and her husband were married almost 50 years before his death in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest and Clara, then twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.