Country music is full of great singers and songwriters. Today, several legendary performers populate the airwaves as well as the record collections of fans. However, few artists reach the level of an icon. Loretta Lynn is a country music icon. She has been in the business for over sixty years. During her long career, Lynn has never shied away from speaking her mind. Because of this, she has been the voice of and inspiration for generations of women in country music.
Today, Loretta Lynn turns 89 years old. To celebrate her birthday, we’re looking back at some of the best moments of her long and successful career.
Loretta Lynn’s Early Life
Loretta Lynn is one of the biggest stars country music has ever seen. However, she never forgot her roots. In fact, she told the story of her youth in her signature song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” in 1970. By the time she released that song, Lynn was already well-acquainted with stardom. She had several top-10 hits as well as three chart-toppers under her belt by then.
So instead of recounting the humble beginnings that made her a star, I’ll let Loretta Lynn do the talking. She tells it better anyway.
Lynn’s First Number One Single
Loretta Lynn released her first single in 1960. “Honky Tonk Girl,” was a top-20 hit. Then, she went on to release a string of singles that landed in the top-10. By 1966, Lynn had taken eight singles to the top-10. That year, she released, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Yout Mind).” It climbed the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart and, in February of 1967, it landed at the top.
“Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin'” was more than just Loretta Lynn’s first chart-topper. It was a record-breaking song that set the Coal Miner’s Daughter up for a whole new world of recognition. Before Lynn, only six other solo female singles had reached the top of the chart. No woman had ever written a song that became a number-one hit. This distinction helped to set Loretta apart. It showed that she wasn’t just a great singer. She was also a masterful songwriter. At the same time, it showed that she shined brightest when singing from her own experience.
Loretta Lynn was the first woman to take home the CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. This win was largely due to the success of “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’.” She would go on to win the award two more times.
Loretta Lynn released an album of the same name in 1967. When it was certified gold, Lynn became the first female country singer to earn that honor.
Loretta Lynn – The Coal Miner’s Daughter
“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” hit the airwaves in 1970 and might be one of the best country songs ever written. The authenticity and storytelling in the song alone make it an embodiment of the heart of country music. It was also a massive hit for Loretta Lynn. To this day, the song is synonymous with the country music icon.
However, it was more than just a big hit. “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” brought Loretta Lynn more acclaim and, at the same time, helped to introduce her to a much wider audience. The song peaked at the top of the country chart and landed in Billboard‘s Hot 100 as well. Spurred by the success of the song, Lynn wrote her autobiography under the same title. The book hit shelves in 1976 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. Loretta Lynn was the first country musician to land on that list.
Coal Miner’s Daughter was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1980.
For those keeping track at home, that’s four major firsts for Loretta Lynn. She was also the first female country singer to land a gold record, the first woman to take a song she wrote to the top of the chart, and the first performer to receive the CMA for Female Vocalist of the Year. Lynn was breaking boundaries as well as records just by telling her story.
Speaking Her Mind, Telling Her Story
As a songwriter, Loretta Lynn speaks her mind. At the same time, she writes about her life and the things she sees around her. Songs like “One’s On the Way,” “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’.” and her signature tune were all taken straight from her life.
Loretta Lynn has always written to and about women. Over the years, she has been hailed as the spokeswoman for women’s issues in country music. After all, she came to prominence in the era in which the women’s liberation movement was finding its footing.
As you could imagine this placed Loretta Lynn in the crosshairs of some who found her music too controversial. Her song “The Pill” landed in the top-five on the country chart. It also peaked at number seventy on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was wildly popular. The thing that stopped it from climbing all the way to the top of the country chart was the fact that several radio stations refused to play the song.
“The Pill,” is a celebration of birth control. It is told from the perspective of a woman who is glad to have control over her reproductive function because she has the pill. So, her husband can’t get her pregnant over and over again. This is another song taken directly from Loretta Lynn’s life. She had six children when she recorded the song. Four of those kids were born before she was twenty years old. Because of its frank discussions about sex and birth control, country radio wanted no part of it.
About her controversial and banned songs like “The Pill,” and “Rated X,” Loretta Lynn said, “I would never set out to write something just for it to shock someone; I am not that clever. It’s always been about truth, and if that means radio wants to ban it, well, that’s their problem. Most of my records they banned became No. 1 anyway.”
Loretta Lynn is Still Woman Enough
Loretta Lynn is still a force to be reckoned with in the realm of country music. Even after six decades, the country icon is still making music as well as waves. This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Coal Miner’s Daughter. It also saw the release of her fiftieth studio album Still Woman Enough. Her latest release solidified her place as the matriarch of country music. It also reminded the entire world that she was, in fact, still woman enough to take the reins of country music and drive an album to the top-10.
Loretta Lynn shows no sign of stopping any time soon.