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Loretta Lynn Died At 90: Legend of Music Industry
Loretta Lynn died at 90, whose songs of love loss, and hard times are among the most cherished in country music history, has passed away.
After a long illness, Lynn passed away on October 4 at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, her family said. She topped the US country charts a total of sixteen times, beginning with 1966’s Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind), and received a total of eighteen Grammy Award nominations, taking home three. There are a total of 60 studio albums by her.
Lynn was inspired to write her hallmark song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” in 1970 since she was born Loretta Webb, one of eight children, in a one-room rural Kentucky cabin in 1932. Her father worked as a coal miner. They wed a month after she met Oliver Lynn, then 21, when she was only 15. The couple stayed together for 48 years, all the way up until Oliver died in 1996, despite his many affairs and his battle with alcoholism. Six children were born to them, and three of them arrived before Lynn turned 20.
For their anniversary in 1953, Oliver gave Lynn a guitar; she and her brother Jay Lee formed a band called Loretta and the Trailblazers and played around their Washington state home. After releasing her first original single, I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl, in 1960, she began penning her own material. Independently released, she and Oliver tirelessly drove from country radio station to station to promote the single. For three months, she and her family “slept in the van and ate baloney and cheese sandwiches in the parks because we were too poor to stay in motels,” she recalled. The single was so popular that it made it into the Top 20 on the country charts, and Decca signed her as a result.
Lynn’s songs generally represented broken hearts or harmful relationships, and often featured feisty heroines; I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl was inspired by the story of someone she met and became friends with; the subject matter, a lady heartbroken by a breakup, would be visited again and again by Lynn. Her follow-up No. 1 single, “Fist City,” warned other wives not to get too close to her husband; another country No. 1 song, “Rated X,” dealt with the shame associated with divorce; and the controversially honest “The Pill” hit the pop charts in 1975.
From 1964–1976, she maintained a consistently impressive album output of between two and four records per year. Not only did she release albums as a solo artist, but she also collaborated with other country greats like Conway Twitty (10 duet albums) and Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette (1993’s Honky Tonk Angels). Her friendship with Patsy Cline led to a recording of a tribute album to the singer after her tragic death in a plane crash in 1963.
Lynn’s output slowed beginning in the mid-1980s, but she experienced a major comeback in 2004 with the album Van Lear Rose, produced by Jack White of the White Stripes. It was her most successful album on the US charts up until that point, and 2016’s Full Circle, which featured collaborations with Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello, became her most successful album ever. Wouldn’t It Be Great is her most recent album, released in 2018? Her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was published to widespread acclaim in 1976, and her story was turned into a biopic of the same name in 1980. Sissy Spacek won the best actress for her role as Lynn in this film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Just four of Lynn’s six children—Clara, Ernest, and the identical twins Peggy and Patsy—have outlived her.
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