Loretta Lynn, born Loretta Webb in 1932 in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, is one of the most prolific and honored performers in country music history. Her life story, based on her biography, was depicted in the Academy Award winning film, Coal Miner's Daughter, in 1980. Sissy Spacek won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the music legend. The second of 8 children, Lynn sang in churches and in local concerts until she married Oliver "Doo" Lynn. She was married at 15 years old, although for many years she said she claimed to have been married at 13.
She never used a computer, which made for some interesting songwriting sessions, including the one with Elvis Costello for her 2016 track "Everything It Takes." When they retreated to the kitchen in the studio to write the track, the crew started cracking up when they saw her going at it with a pen and pencil while Elvis used a computer.
Lynn wrote her first hit song, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," in 1960 on a $17 Gibson guitar that her husband gave to her. By this point, she had been married for several years and already had four children. She recalled in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR in 2010 that she took the guitar to their outdoor toilet and wrote the song, along with "Whispering Sea." Despite their tumultuous marriage, Lynn credits Doo with starting her career and motivating her to continue. She said she was too shy to try it on her own, but also felt that singing was simple after working so hard to take care of her family. She told Gross, "I took care of the farmhouse. I cleaned and cooked for 36 ranch hands... so singing was easy. I thought: Gee whiz, this is an easy job."
Lynn was the first woman to have over 50 Top 10 Country hits. Over time, she became known for her forthright and honest songwriting, more than once creating controversy over her topics. She wrote "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" in response to one of her husband's numerous affairs and it went to #2 on the country charts. 1966's "Dear Uncle Sam" was her take on the human cost of the Vietnam War and "Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)" went to #1 in 1967. She also recorded "The Pill" in 1975, which told of a woman's freedom from repeated pregnancy. It had a tinge of reality to it for Lynn, a mother of six who also miscarried three times. She said, "I sure didn't like it when I got pregnant a few times. You know, it's hard for a woman to have so many kids.
In the second half of her career, she became known for the elegant gowns she wore onstage. "I wouldn't go on the stage without my gowns," she said in her Songfacts interview
. "Tim, he is my assistant, and he makes all my gowns. He gets upset with me because I won't dress in anything else. No matter what, I have new gowns."
Teaming up with Conway Twitty in the 1970s, Lynn recorded nine studio albums with him over the decade and she released 26 albums overall during that span. In 1977, she released I Remember Patsy, her tribute to her mentor, Patsy Cline. Rolling Stone magazine called it, "a near perfect tribute album."
Interest in Lynn's life and music soared after the release of the movie, Coal Miner's Daughter. Sissy Spacek sang the songs for the soundtrack, doing an admirable imitation of Lynn, and the album was certified gold in 1982.
Lynn was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and, in 2008, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York City. On her website Lynn remarked, "I'd rather write songs than sing." In 2010, she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and later that year, a tribute album of her songs was released, featuring artists such as Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert, and Alan Jackson. Lynn, who selected the artists for the album, collaborated with Lambert and Sheryl Crow on the album's title track, her classic "Coal Miner's Daughter." In 2011, Lynn said she planned to re-record all of her #1 hits and in 2012, rocker Bret Michaels announced that he would be recording a duet of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with Lynn for his solo album, Get Your Rock On.
Loretta Lynn's 14-room ranch in Tennessee was built in 1845 and was used as a hospital in the Civil War.
In 2004 Loretta Lynn published a cookbook, You're Cookin' It Country
, which includes a possum recipe. "It used to be my daddy's favourite dish," she told Jam! Music
. "The way my mommy fixed it, it was really great. She would cook the possum, because they're really greasy, and the grease would stand in the pan, so she'd pour all of the grease off of it. And she would take all the possum legs or whatever and she would put them in a bread pan and put some sweet potatoes around that possum and stick it back in the oven."