Loretta Lynn (born
Loretta Webb on April 14, 1935) is an American country music singer-songwriter; she was one of the
leading country vocalists and songwriters during the 1960s and is
revered as a country music cultural
Lynn ruled the charts during the '60s and '70s, racking up over 70
hits as a solo artist and a duet partner.
With an impoverished upbringing, a troubled yet devoted marriage,
chronic illness and exhaustion due to her hectic pace, and several
tragedies through the years, Lynn's own life often provided the
grist for her popular tunes. Her best-selling 1976 autobiography,
, was made into a hit Academy Award
-winning film starring Sissy Spacek
and Tommy Lee Jones
Although she was out of the loop for a few years while taking care
of her husband, who died in 1996, Lynn returned to touring in 1998.
In 2000, she released her first album since 1988 to contain
original solo material.Including solo and duet work, Loretta Lynn
has released 16 number one country hits over the course of her
Childhood and early adulthood
Born to Melvin "Ted" Webb (1906–1959) and Clara Marie (Ramey) Webb
(1912–1981) and named in honor of Loretta
, Loretta Webb was the second of eight children; her
youngest sister is country singer Crystal
. She is also, on her mother's side, distantly related to
country singer Patty Loveless
up in Butcher
Hollow, a section of Van Lear, a mining community near Paintsville, Johnson County, Kentucky.
Her mother, Clara, was of Scots-Irish
ancestry. Her father, Ted, was a coal
miner, storekeeper, and farmer. Growing up with
such humble roots had a huge effect on Lynn's life and heavily
influenced her music as an adult. Her autobiography describes how,
during her childhood, the community had no motor vehicles, paved
roads, or flush toilets.
She was married to Oliver Vanetta Lynn, commonly known as
"Doolittle," "Doo," or "Mooney" (for running moonshine
), on January 10, 1949, at 13 years of
effort to break free of the coal mining industry, Lynn moved to the
logging community Custer, Washington, with her husband, at the age of 15.
Lynns had four children - Betty Sue, Jack Benny, Cissy and Ernest
Ray - by the time Loretta was 17, and subsequently had twin girls,
Peggy and Patsy (named after Patsy
Lynn always had a passion for music. Before getting married, she
regularly sang at churches and in local concerts. After she
married, she stopped singing in public, wishing rather to focus on
her family life. Instead, she passed her love of music on to her
children, often singing to them around the house. When Loretta was
18, Doolittle bought her a guitar
anniversary present, which she taught herself to play.
Childhood home of Loretta Lynn
Even though they were married for nearly 50 years and had six
children together, the Lynn's marriage was reportedly rocky up to
Doolittle's death in 1996. In her 2002 autobiography, Still Woman Enough
, and in an
interview with CBS News
the same year, Lynn
recounts how her husband cheated on her regularly and once left her
while she was giving birth. Lynn and her husband also fought
frequently, but, she said, "he never hit me one time that I didn’t
hit him back twice."
1960 – 1966: Early country success
Lynn began singing in local clubs and later with a band, The Trailblazers
, which included her
brother Jay Lee Webb. Lynn appeared in a televised Tacoma, Washington talent contest, hosted by Buck Owens, which was seen by Norm Burley, one of the founders of Zero Records.
Records president Don Grashey arranged a
recording session in Hollywood, where four of Lynn's own compositions were
recorded: "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl," "Whispering Sea," "Heartache
Meet Mister Blues," and "New Rainbow."
Her first release
featured "Whispering Sea" and "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl." With their
initial support, Lynn went on to become one of country music’s
Lynn signed her first contract on February 1, 1960, with Zero Records
. She recorded her first release in
March of that year, with bandleader Speedy
on steel guitar, Harold
on fiddle, Roy Lanham
guitar, Al Williams
on bass, and
on drums. The material was
recorded at Western Recorders
engineered by Don Blake
and produced by
In 1960, under the Zero label, Lynn recorded "I'm A Honky Tonk
Lynns toured the country to promote the release to country
stations, while Grashey and Del Roy took the
music to KFOX in Long
When the Lynns reached Nashville, the song
was a minor hit, climbing to #14 on Billboard's C & W Chart,
and Lynn began cutting demo records for the Wilburn Brothers
' Publishing Company.
Through the Wilburns, Lynn was able to secure a contract with
relationship with the Wilburn Brothers and her appearances on the
Opry, beginning in 1960, helped Lynn become the number
one female recording artist in country music.
contract with the Wilburn Brothers gave them the publishing rights
to her material. She was still fighting to regain these rights 30
years after ending her business relationship with them, but was
ultimately denied the publishing rights. Lynn stopped writing music
in the 1970s because of these contracts.
Although Kitty Wells
had become the
first major female country vocalist during the 1950s, by the time
Lynn recorded her first record, only three other women - Patsy Cline
, and Jean Shepard
become top stars. By the end of 1962, it was clear that Lynn was on
her way to becoming the fourth. Lynn credits Cline as her mentor
and best friend during those early years, and as fate would have
it, Lynn would follow her as the most popular country vocalist of
the early '60s and, eventually, the 1970s.
Lynn released her first Decca single, "Success," in 1962, and it
went straight to Number 6, beginning a string of Top 10 singles
that would run through the rest of the decade and throughout the
next. She was a hard honky-tonk singer for the first half of the
'60s and rarely strayed from the genre.Between this time, Lynn soon
began to regularly hit the Top 10 after 1964 with "Before I'm Over
You", which peaked at #4, followed by "Wine, Women, and Song",
which peaked at #3. In late 1964, Lynn also recorded a duet album
with Lynn's idol and Country performer, Ernest Tubb
. Their lead single, "Mr. and Mrs.
Used to Be" peaked within the Top 15. Together, the pair recorded
two more albums, "Singin' Again" (1967) and If we Put Our Heads
(1969). In 1965, Lynn's solo career continued with
three major hits that year, "Happy Birthday", "Blue Kentucky Girl"
(later recorded and made a Top 10 hit in the 70s by Emmylou Harris
), and "The Home You're Tearing
Down". Lynn's label issued two albums that year, Songs from My
and Blue Kentucky Girl
. While most of these
songs were Top 10 Country hits, none of them reached #1.
Her first self-penned song to crack the Top Ten, 1966’s "Dear Uncle
Sam”, was among the very first recordings to recount the human
costs of the Vietnam War.In the latter half of the decade, although
she still worked within the confines of honky tonk, her sound
became more personal, varied, and ambitious, particularly
lyrically. Beginning with 1966's Number 2 hit "You Ain't Woman
Enough," Lynn began writing songs with a feminist
viewpoint, which was unheard of in country
1967 – 1980: Breakthrough success
In 1967, she reached #1 with "Don't
Come Home A' Drinkin'
".Lynn's album, Don't Come Home A'
, went to number one and became the first album by a
female country artist to be certified gold.Lynn's next album,
was released in 1967. The title track became
Lynn's second #1 hit in early 1968 and the other single from the
album, "What Kind of a Girl (Do You Think I Am)" peaked within the
Top 10. In 1968 her next studio album, Your Squaw Is on the
spawned two Top 5 Country hits, the title track and
"You've Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me)". In 1969 her
next single, "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)" was Lynn's
third chart-topper, followed by a subsequent Top 10, "To Make a Man
(Feel Like a Man)".
Lynn was reportedly once inspired to write a song about a real
woman who she suspected was flirting with her husband. The song,
"You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" was an instant hit and
became one of Lynn's all-time best. Despite some criticism, Lynn's
openness and honesty drew fans from around the nation, including
some who were not previously familiar with country music.
Lynn's career continued to be successful into the 1970s, especially
following the success of Lynn's hit "Coal Miner's Daughter
peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country
in 1970. "Coal Miner's Daughter" tells the story of
Lynn's life growing up in rural Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. The song
would later serve as the impetus for the best-selling biography
(1976) and the Oscar-winning biopic starring Sissy Spacek
(1980), both of which share the
song's title.The song became Lynn's first single to chart on the
Billboard Hot 100
, peaking at #83.
Lynn would have a series of singles that would chart low on the Hot
100 between 1970 and 1975.
In 1971, she began a professional partnership with Conway Twitty
. As a duo, Lynn and Twitty had
five consecutive Number 1 hits between 1971 and 1975: "After the
Fire Is Gone" (1971), "Lead Me On" (1971), "Louisiana Woman,
Mississippi Man" (1973), "As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone" (1974),
and "Feelins'" (1974). The hit-streak kick-started what would
become one of the most successful duos of country history. For four
consecutive years (1972-1975), Lynn and Twitty were named the
"Vocal Duo of the Year" by the Country Music Association
addition to their five Number 1 singles, they had seven other Top
10 hits between 1976 and 1981.
As a solo artist, Lynn's career continued to be very successful
into 1971, achieving her fifth #1 solo hit, "One's on the Way
", written by poet and
songwriter, Shel Silverstein
songs that didn't reach the top spot peaked within the Top 10
during this time, "I Wanna Be Free", "You're Lookin' At Country
1972's "Here I Am Again", all released on separate albums. The next
year, she became the first country star on the cover of Newsweek
.In 1973, "Rated X" peaked at #1 on the
Billboard Country Chart, and was considered one of Lynn's most
controversial hits. The next year Lynn's next single, "Love Is the
Foundation" also became a #1 Country hit from her album of the same
name. The second and last single from that album, "Hey Loretta"
became a Top 5 hit. Lynn continued to reach the Top 10 until the
end of the decade, including with 1975's "The Pill
", considered to be the first song
to discuss birth control
, other than
an obscure 1967 song in French, Pilule d'Or (The Golden Pill) by
Luc Dominique, the former Singing
Her unique material, which sassily and bluntly addressed issues in
the lives of many women (particularly in the South
), made her stand out among
female country vocalists. As a songwriter, Lynn believed no topic
was off limits, as long as it spoke to other women, and many of her
songs were autobiographical.
In 1977, Lynn recorded Tribute album to friend and Country-pop
singer, Patsy Cline
, who died in a plane
crash in 1963. The album covered some of Cline's biggest hits. The
two singles Lynn released from the album, "She's Got You
" and "Why Can't He Be You"
became major hits. "She's Got You", which formerly went to #1 by
Cline in 1962, went to #1 again that year by Lynn. "Why Can't He Be
You" peaked at #7 shortly afterward.
Lynn enjoyed enormous success on country radio until the early
1980s, when a more pop-flavored type of country music began to
dominate the market. Even so, Lynn was able to stay within the
country Top 10 up until the end of the 1970s; however, most of her
music by the late '70s had a slick pop sound to it. Lynn had her
last Number 1 hit in early 1978 with her solo single, "Out of My
Head and Back In My Bed." In 1979, Lynn had two Top 5 hits, "I
Can't Feel You Anymore" and "I've Got a Picture Of Us on My Mind,"
each from separate albums.
Lynn was always adored by her fans while she was touring on her bus
named Loretta Lynn. She often would sit for an hour or more on a
stage giving autographs to her fans after a performance. Once in
Salisbury, Md., the town's newspaper editor interviewed her while
she was signing autographs.Editor Mel Toadvine asked her why she
took so much time to sign autographs while more than 100 people
stood in line all the way to the front of the Wicomico Youth and
Civic Center."These people are my fans," she told Toadvine. "I'll
stay here until the very last one wants my autograph. Without these
people, I am nobody; I love these people," she said.
In 1976, Lynn released Coal
, an autobiography whose title came from
her #1 record of 1970. It became a New York Times
bestseller and was made
into a film in 1980, starring Sissy
as Lynn and Tommy Lee
as her husband, Doolittle
Spacek won the Academy
Award for Best Actress
for the part. Due mostly to the critical
and commercial success of the film, Lynn gained more "mainstream"
attention in the early 1980s, starring in two primetime specials on
1980 – 1989: Continued success
The '80s featured more hits ("Pregnant Again," "Naked In The Rain,"
"Somebody Led Me Away").Her 1980 and 1981 albums, Loretta
and Lookin' Good
spawned these hits. Lynn was the first
woman in country music to have 50 Top 10 hits. Her last Top 10
record as a soloist was "I Lie" in 1982, but her releases continued
to chart until the end of the decade. Lynn continued to have Top 20
hits throughout the 1980s. One of her last solo releases was 1985's
"Heart Don't Do This to Me," which reached #19; her last Top 20
hit. In 1993, Lynn stopped releasing singles and focused more on
touring than promoting. As a concert artist, she remained a top
draw throughout her career, but by the early 1990s she drastically
cut down the number of personal appearances due to the fragile
health of her husband, who died in 1996.
Lynn's 1985 album, Just a Woman
spawned a Top 40 hit. In
1987, Lynn lent her voice to a song on k.d. Lang
with other Country stars, Kitty Wells
called "Honky Tonk Angels Medley".
Lynn's 1988 album Who Was That Stranger
would be her last
solo album for a major record company until 2004. She remained one
of country music’s most popular and well-loved stars. She was inducted into
Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
1990 – present: Later music career
Lynn returned to the public eye in 1993 with the trio album
Honky Tonk Angels
, recorded with Dolly Parton
, and the following year released a three-CD boxed set
chronicling her career. In 1995, she taped a seven-week series on
the Nashville Network (TNN
) titled Loretta
Lynn & Friends
, and performed about 50 dates that year as
well.The album's charting single, a cover of "Silver Threads and
Golden Needles" reached #68. The album became very successful for
the trio, peaking at #4 on the Top
chart and #42 on the Billboard 200
and sold enough copies to be
certified "Gold" by the RIAA
shortly after its
In 2000, Lynn released her first album in several years, entitled
. In it, she included a song, "I Can't Hear
the Music," as a tribute to her late husband. She also released her
first new single in over 10 years from the album, "Country In My
Genes". While the album gained positive critical notices, sales
were low in comparison with her releases in the 1970s. In 2002,
Lynn published her second autobiography, Still Woman Enough
, and in 2004, she
published a cookbook, You're Cookin' It Country
In 2004, Lynn made a comeback with the highly successful album
Van Lear Rose
, the second
album on which Lynn either wrote or co-wrote every song. The album
was produced by her "friend forever" Jack White
of The White Stripes
, and featured guitar
work and backup vocals by White. Her collaboration with White
allowed Lynn to reach new audiences and generations, even garnering
high praise in magazines that specialize in mainstream and alternative rock
music, such as Spin
. Rolling Stone
voted the album the second
best of the year for 2004. (White has long been an admirer of Lynn
and claims she is his favorite singer. He has covered several songs
of hers, including the controversial "Rated X.")
Loretta Lynn is working on the follow-up to 2004's Van Lear
, plus a new CD of re-recorded versions of her greatest
hits over the past 40 years. Both CDs are set for release in
Marriage and children
Lynn has been married only once; to her husband "Doolittle Lynn
". They were married in 1949,
shortly before she reached the age of 14, in Kentucky. The Lynn
family had four children before Loretta turned 18, and then had
twins in the early 60s: Peggy and Patsy Lynn. Patsy Lynn was
named in honor
of Patsy Cline
. Lynn's twin daughters formed their
own Country music duo group, The Lynns
1998 and released two singles off their debut album on Reprise Records
and were nominated for
"Vocal Duo of the Year" by the Country Music Association.
22, 1984, Jack Benny Lynn, Loretta's eldest son, drowned while
trying to ford the Duck River at the family ranch in Hurricane
Jack was 34 at the time of his death.
In 2005, her son Ernest Ray pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide
in a DUI
Lynn is the second of eight children. Some of her siblings,
including Jay Lee Webb and Peggy
, have pursued short-lived country music careers in the past
. The most successful of Lynn's siblings to gain success on the
Country charts is Crystal Gayle
is best-known for a series of Country-pop crossover ballads in the
late 70s and 80s, including the #1 Country and #2 Pop hit,
"Don't It Make My Brown
". Gayle had other #1 hits as well. Gayle and Lynn
have previously toured together. Lynn is also distantly related to
country singer Patty Loveless
was raised around the same area Lynn had been raised as a
Current home and life
a ranch in Hurricane
Mills, Tennessee, billed as "The 7th Largest Attraction in
Tennessee," featuring a recording studio, museums, lodging, and
The ranch is centered around her large
plantation home, along with a replica of her Butcher Hollow cabin.
She no longer lives in the plantation home, but tours of the house
are available.In 2006, Lynn underwent shoulder surgery after
injuring herself in a fall.
Honors and awards
Lynn has written over 160 songs and released 70 albums. She has had
ten Number 1 albums and sixteen Number 1 singles on the country
charts. Lynn has won dozens of awards from many different
institutions, including four Grammy
, seven American Music
, eight Broadcast
awards, and ten Academy of Country Music
In 1972, Lynn was the first woman named "Entertainer of the Year"
by the Country Music
, and is one of five women to have received CMA's
highest award. She was named "Artist of the Decade" for the 1970s
by the Academy of Country
. Lynn was inducted into the Country
Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame
She was also the recipient of Kennedy Center Honors
also ranked 65th on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of
Rock & Roll and has a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame.
In 2001, VH1
's television special 100
Greatest Women of Rock & Roll
placed Lynn at #65 on their
countdown. In 2002, Lynn also placed at #3 on CMT
television's special of the 40 Greatest Women of
, hosted by Billy
. At Number 1 was Lynn's friend and mentor, Patsy
Cline. 2001-Coal Miner's Daughter named among "NPR's 100 Most
Significant Songs of the 20th Century".
17, 2007, Berklee College of Music presented Lynn an Honorary Doctorate of Music
degree for her contribution to the world of country music.
The degree was presented to her on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
19, 2008, Lynn was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a
ceremony in New York
In her heyday, Lynn was not a stranger to controversy. She possibly
had more banned songs than any other artist in the history of
country music, including "Rated X," about the double standards
divorced women face, "Wings Upon Your Horns," about the loss of
teenage virginity, and "The Pill," lyrics by T. D. Bayless, about a
wife and mother becoming liberated via the birth control pill
song "Dear Uncle Sam," released in 1966 during the Vietnam War
, describes a wife's anguish at the
loss of a husband to war. It has been included in live performances
during the current Iraq War
. She has also
been a supporter of both George H.
and George W. Bush
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Kennedy Center. Accessed 2007-02-04.
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autobiography recounts how once, in a drunken rage, he smashed many
jars full of vegetables she had painstakingly canned. Accessed
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RAMBLING HEART"(Washington. D.C., 1995), p. 45.
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RAMBLING HEART"(Washington. D.C., 1995), p. 45.
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Duane, Editor. London: Rough Guides Ltd. p. 311.
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Ltd. p. 251.
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Countrypolitan.com; retrieved 2008-04-18.
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News. 8 June 2006. Accessed 2007-02-04.
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Drowning of Her Favorite Son" People.com; accessed
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Metacritic. Accessed 2007-03-03.
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- County Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
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VH1.com. Accessed 2007-02-04.
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American Music, Nicholas Dawidoff, Vintage Books, 1998. ISBN
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and the changing face of Nashville, Bruce Feiler, Avon Books,
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