Loretta Lynn died last Tuesday in her sleep at the age of 90. She left behind four children and a massive discography of work that spanned 60 years and 60 albums.
Lynn was born in Butcher’s Hollow, Kentucky, in the Appalachian Mountains. Her family was born poor, her father was a coal miner who died at the young age of 52 from black lung disease. Lynn was married at the age of 15 to her husband, to whom she would remain married for 60 years until her death in 1996.
Their relationship would be marked by infidelity and heartbreak. He bought her a guitar for $17 and told her to learn how to play it. This entire story would become the subject of her lyrics and music for years to come.
It’s hard to put into words Lynn’s impact on the world of music. She has influenced various artists such as Jeannie Riley, Jenny Lewis, White Stripes, Trisha Underwood, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Kacey Musgraves and many others. She has also worked with other legendary country stars such as Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and Dolly Parton.
Like Cash, Lynn became a symbol for a particular group: low-income women who had to fight, for whom life was nothing more than babies, inconsiderate and petty men. She had come from there and as she became an icon, she refused to forget that hunger or that pain.
Lynn wouldn’t shut up about it. Instead, she came across as someone willing to fight back and push back against this harsh reality, bringing to light things that people would rather remain in the dark or silent about. These themes led to her being banned from country radio more than a dozen times.
One of his most controversial songs is “the pill“, in which Lynn gleefully sings about the freedom birth control has given her. With the pill, she will no longer be forced to be just a baby producer and will be able to embrace her sexuality and enjoy it. The song itself shows no shyness or self-consciousness, choosing to be direct with lyrics like, “But all I’ve seen of this old world is a bed and/a medical bill/I’m going to tear down your hatchery because/Now I have the pill.”
Lynn also sang about the complicated relationships between men and women, often turning to the theme of infidelity. This is a subject she was well versed in thanks to her husband. Sometimes she was the avenging angel who came to punish women who dated her man, as heard in “you are not woman enough” Y “Mrs Leroy Brown”, or she herself was dating, as in “Another man loved me last night.”
“X-rated” talks about the double standards of women after divorce, where Lynn sings“Everyone knows you’ve loved once / They think you’ll love again / You can’t have a male friend / When you’re a woman or a woman / You’re X-rated.”
If you update this song a bit, it’s every woman’s DM, though for men today, relationship status doesn’t matter as much. The exasperation Lynn shows in dealing with this hasn’t changed much in the last 49 years.
The main thing about Lynn’s music and work is that she always saw that there was something to fight for. Whether it’s the women still struggling to find their place against the cruelty of the world, or just for you. Sensitive and taboo topics should be discussed. Otherwise, we are harming ourselves and allowing injustices to continue for too long.
Was she perfect? Of course not. Some of her views were out of date and Parton seems to have adapted to the times much more than Lynn, as evidenced by Lynn’s choice in the 2016 presidential election. But, that’s par for the course with most singers, that her music , and what you take from her, will outlast her personal actions and views.
Even with her imperfections, Lynn served a greater good by inspiring dozens of female artists both in the country world and beyond. To her audience, she helped spread awareness of the issues and understanding of the plight of the oppressed. She was a mark of fire that ignited a spark that continues in the hearts of millions, encouraging them to seek the treatment they deserve and settle for nothing less.
When I was younger, I watched Lynn start for the White Stripes. I was in the audience with my sister and we watched the stage being set up. That’s when we noticed men dressed in suits coming out on stage.
I started to get the feeling that Lynn was going out, since no indie rock band would dress in that kind of finery. My sister didn’t believe me, but then Lynn came out wearing a white sequined dress and wowed the audience. She sang like an angel, cracking her knuckles and with the energy of someone much younger than her. She was 71 years old at the time.
Jack White joined them onstage for a few numbers, as this was a promo for their collaboration, “rose van lear.” Lynn would also step out for the White Stripes encore, having changed into a red dress to suit the band’s aesthetic. She joked between songs about how White said he was worried her music might scare her, but she was tougher than she thought.
Lynn worked until her death, having released her last album, “still enough woman”, in 2021. She brought a unique voice to a world that is a little less now that she is gone. But there is so much music left behind and fights that still need to be fought.
And when it’s time to tear down, we’ll have a soundtrack, all thanks to “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”