Loretta Lynn, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ icon and country singer, dead at 90

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Loretta Lynn, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ icon and country singer, dead at 90

Loretta Lynn, who rose from a hardscrabble upbringing to become the most culturally significant female singer-songwriter in country music history, died Tuesday at age 90.

“Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, Oct. 4, in her sleep at home at her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” her family said in a statement to The Tennessean.

Many of Lynn’s songs are filled with specifics of her wholly unique life, yet they had a universal appeal. She wrote about intimate matters — from her difficult, wearying childhood to fights with her husband — yet managed to strike a collective nerve. And, without ever mentioning politics or women’s liberation, her songs helped to change long-held notions about gender roles. “Rated ‘X’ ” and “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” were personal pleas — not political treatises — that sought an end to double standards.

Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter whose frank songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia pulled her out of poverty and made her a pillar of country music, has died. She was 90.


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.

As a songwriter, she crafted a persona of a defiantly tough woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers. The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote fearlessly about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce and birth control and sometimes got in trouble with radio programmers for material from which even rock performers once shied away.

Her biggest hits came in the 1960s and ’70s, 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’re Looking at Country.” She was known for appearing in floor-length, wide gowns with elaborate embroidery or rhinestones, many created by her longtime personal assistant and designer Tim Cobb.

Her honesty and unique place in country music was rewarded. She was the first woman ever named entertainer of the year at the genre’s two major awards shows, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.

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I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl was inspired by the story of someone Lynn met and befriended, and its subject matter – a woman devastated by a breakup – would be visited again and again by Lynn, whose songs often depicted broken hearts or damaging relationships, and often featured feisty heroines. Her second No 1, Fist City, was a threat to other women not to come near her husband, while another country chart-topper, Rated X, addressed the stigma of divorce; 1975’s The Pill crossed over into the pop charts with its controversially frank celebration of birth control.

She kept up a high release rate, with at least two and as many as four albums each year between 1964 and 1976. As well as solo releases she partnered with country stars such as Conway Twitty, with whom she recorded 10 duet albums, and Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette for the 1993 album Honky Tonk Angels. She recorded with kd lang, and also had a friendship with Patsy Cline, recording a tribute album to her after Cline died in a 1963 plane crash.

Lynn’s release rate slowed from the mid-1980s, but she had a high-profile resurgence in 2004 with the album Van Lear Rose, produced by the White Stripes’ Jack White. It became her best-performing album in the US charts then to date, and was followed by her highest-charting album ever, 2016’s Full Circle, which featured duets with Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello. Her most recent album is 2018’s Wouldn’t It Be Great.

“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 the men; I wrote for us women. And the men loved it, too.”

In 1969, she released her autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which helped her reach her widest audience yet.

“We were poor but we had love/That’s the one thing Daddy made sure of/He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar,” she sang.

“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” also the title of her 1976 book, was made into a 1980 movie of the same name. Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of Lynn won her an Academy Award and the film was also nominated for best picture. 


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