Country Music Legend Loretta Lynn Passes Away

Evan Agostini

Loretta Lynn, who blazed multiple country music trails by speaking her mind in song rather than being merely decorative, died October 4th in her sleep at her Nashville home. Lynn was 90.


Lynn’s perhaps best-known song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was highly autobiographical. She was born and raised in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, with seven brothers and sisters in a childhood steeped in poverty. And yes, her father was a coal miner.

Lynn married at 15 (!), shortly thereafter moving with her husband to Washington state, which has never enjoyed identification as a country music hotbed. At her husband Doolittle’s (real name Oliver) urging, she picked up a guitar and started writing songs. Lynn’s unfiltered honesty quickly drew notice even in the Pacific Northwest, and she made her Grand Old Opry debut in 1960, with her first hit record coming in 1962. The song, somewhat ironically, was titled “Success.” From that moment on, Lynn was unstoppable, racking up dozens of hits even while routinely crossing the line of what was considered acceptable subject material. From her website:

In lyrics such as “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’” and “Your Squaw Is on the Warpath,” she refused to be any man’s doormat. She challenged female rivals in “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “Fist City.” She showed tremendous blue-collar pride in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” She is unafraid of controversy, whether the topic is sex (“Wings Upon Your Horns”), divorce (“Rated X”), alcohol (“Wouldn’t It Be Great”), or war (“Dear Uncle Sam”). “The Pill,” her celebration of sexual liberation, was banned by many radio stations.

Lynn’s star burned bright for decades, her string of successes continuing unabated through the 1970s into the 1990s. Things began slowing when Doolittle passed away in 1996, and Lynn was gradually relegated to the shelf in favor of new female singers, all utterly in her debt. In typical fashion, she refused to remain a museum piece, and in 2004 with an unlikely ally — roots blues/rocker Jack White — released Van Lear Rose which won two Grammy Awards while reminding one and all that Lynn had lost none of her power.


Earlier in her career, Lynn appeared alongside the late legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, who, like all of us, quickly fell under Lynn’s spell.

One can say much more regarding Lynn’s life and career: her lengthy string of teasing duets with Conway Twitty, her occasionally turbulent yet lengthy marriage. But what we have left is the music and her voice, gunpowder laced with sugar, making her power go down easy. Lynn was a seeming contradiction, liberated yet married with multiple children. Hers was a life of many sorrows, with her two oldest children passing away before her. She took Frank Sinatra’s mantra of doing it my way and made it her own. Country music, the actual entity as opposed to the rock/pop drek currently polluting the airwaves, was forever shaped and will forever be in Lynn’s debt. The coal miner’s daughter brought energy and light to us all.

Rest in glory, Loretta Lynn.


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