(The GRAMMY Salute To Country Music honoring Loretta Lynn, presented by MasterCard, took place Oct. 12 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. In our final blog installment, Meesa Hayes of 365 Days Of Country Music recaps the evening's festivities.)
By Meesa Hayes
Even the stormy weather on Oct. 12 could not dampen the celebration for one of country's greatest legends in Nashville, where Garth Brooks escorted GRAMMY Salute To Country Music honoree Loretta Lynn down the red carpet.
The woman songwriter Dale Dodson tonight called "the first lady of country music" is not only well-respected for her talent, but she is hailed as a legend for being true to herself. She is an inspiration to singers, songwriters and people because she never wavers from who she is and what she stands for. In a modern world of music that is synthesized and fine-tuned — and earlier in her career, when women were silent and passive — she has remained Loretta. She doesn't know how to be anything else.
When asked if she had any aspirations at the start of her career — a career that has now entered a fifth decade — she interjected, "[I] never thought five years later. [I] never even thought that far, hun. I'd woke up in the backseat of the car with [husband Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn] and Doolittle had gone and got us a doughnut, and I looked up and [saw] the Grand Ole Opry. Well, I shouted all over the streets!"
I asked Lynn what she considered to be the most meaningful song she ever recorded. "Coal Miner's Daughter," she answered. Bringing it back to the present, she humbly added, "I won't ever forget this [night]."
Backstage, the first person I bumped into was singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson. I asked him what albums in Lynn's catalog he would recommend to someone who had never heard her music. "If I was talking to somebody that had never heard Loretta Lynn's music?" he looked at me puzzled. "I would tell them to don't bother, they've already missed it. If they don't know Loretta's music, they don't know good music anyway."
As host Reba McEntire opened the show, I asked songwriter Jason Sellers to describe Lynn in one word. "Country," he quickly replied. Song after song, the audience cheered and clapped for Lynn's signature brand of "country," which on this evening was interpreted through spirited tribute performances. After her performance, I asked Gretchen Wilson which song was her favorite. "'I'm A Honky Tonk Girl,'" she said, "because it was her first [hit], and it changed everything. It changed country music."
Following her performance with daughter Aubrie Sellers, I chatted with my personal favorite artist, Lee Ann Womack. "I really don't remember my life before Loretta," she reminisced.
As we watched Martina McBride perform, I asked Womack if she thought it was harder for an artist to speak their mind or if it was harder to stay reserved. "It's harder to speak your mind," she responded. "But I have learned that it becomes less and less hard, because you worry less and less about pissing people off."
As Lynn was presented with The Recording Academy's President's Merit Award, Lynn said, "I don't know what to say except thank you." Armed with a guitar, Brooks joined her onstage for a captivating performance of "After The Fire Is Gone," the classic GRAMMY-winning duet Lynn originally recorded with Conway Twitty.
I asked Brooks if Lynn were to cover one of his songs, which one would he choose? "The first thing that comes to mind? 'Shameless,'" said Brooks. "Because she's got the balls to do it. She just does. She surprised me as a songwriter tonight. I knew of her as an artist and an icon, but as a songwriter, she's unbelievable.
"I think what's so special is she didn't try to reach the masses, and she reached the masses," Brooks continued. "She didn't try to crossover, and she crossed over. She didn't try to set the bar and outlast everyone else, and she has set the bar and outlasted everyone else."
As the momentous evening drew to a close, I asked Brooks if he could describe Loretta Lynn in one word. "Sincere. Real," Brooks replied, offering two words. "That's her to the bone. She's being who she is. And we love her."
She's a honky tonk girl, a coal miner's daughter, the first lady of country music, a mother, a songwriter, and a legend. She's Loretta Lynn. And Garth Brooks is right: We love her.
(Photo information: Loretta Lynn speaks at the GRAMMY Salute To Country Music honoring Loretta Lynn, presented by MasterCard | Photo: Frederick Breedon/WireImage.com)