Loretta Lynn's Legend
(The GRAMMY Salute To Country Music honoring Loretta Lynn, presented by MasterCard, will take place Oct. 12 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. In our first of two blog installments, Meesa Hayes of 365 Days Of Country Music takes a look at Lynn's historical career.)
By Meesa Hayes
Perhaps early on, her feisty personality indicated that Loretta Lynn would leave an indelible mark on the world. To this day, she continues to have a fiery, far-reaching influence on country music fans and music lovers everywhere.
She married Oliver "Mooney" Lynn (also known as "Doolittle" or "Doo") a few months shy of her 14th birthday. By the age of 19, she had four children. Oliver encouraged her to play guitar, and during the rise of her career in the early '60s she gave birth to twins. Her first break came in 1960 when music executive Norm Burley heard her sing on a local televised talent show, prompting Burley to start Zero Records just to record her. After her first minor hit, "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl," she began recording demos and caught the ear of the legendary producer Owen Bradley.
Following in her friend Patsy Cline's footsteps, Loretta Lynn became one of the early top female stars of country music. In 1962, after early success with Bradley and Decca Records, she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Her candor began to shine through with songs such as "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)," which reached No. 2 on the Country Singles chart. After a string of Top 10 hits, her first No. 1 country single came in 1967 with the release of the self-penned "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)." Her next album spawned another country No. 1, "Fist City." Lynn's genuine and relatable lyrics attracted fans from all genres, and her chart-topping success continued into the '70s with songs such as "Coal Miner's Daughter," "One's On The Way," "The Pill," and a string of No. 1 duets with Conway Twitty, including the GRAMMY-winning "After The Fire Is Gone" and "Lead Me On."
In 1973 she graced the cover of Newsweek — the first country singer to do so. In addition to commercial success, she has been hailed by critics throughout here career. Honky Tonk Angel — a trio album with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette — was released in 1993 and was certified gold; and 2004's Van Lear Rose — a collaboration with Jack White of the White Stripes — garnered two GRAMMY Awards, including Best Country Album.
Lynn's 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, became a The New York Times bestseller. The 1980 Academy Award-winning film of the same name led to more mainstream media exposure. Adored by fans for her down-home style, Lynn has spent countless hours speaking with concertgoers and signing autographs. She forged a path for women not only in country music, but also in business and politics. Her controversial lyrics with songs such as "The Pill" and "Dear Uncle Sam" helped shine a light on topical issues such as birth control and war.
With 70 albums (10 of which topped the Country Albums chart), more than 160 original songs, scores of hits, two autobiographies, one cookbook, 11 Academy of Country Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music, and three GRAMMY Awards, Lynn is one of the most decorated artists in the history of country music. In 1975 she became the first female to win the ACM's coveted Entertainer of the Year award. In 1988 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 1999 she was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame and placed 65th on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. Additional accolades on her mantle include induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008 and a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
With gumption, honesty and artistic integrity, Loretta Lynn became a superstar. As she enters the fifth decade of her colorful career, she is a true pioneer of country music and continues to have a profound impact.