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 Loretta Lynn

HER SWINGIN' '60s CREDENTIALS: This straight-talkin' women-liberatin' song-writin' country-western star rose up from poverty to become one of the most popular and influential singers of the '60s.

CATEGORIES OF SWINGIN' CHICK: Songbird, TV Star

BIRTH: Loretta was born on April 14th of 1935, making her 24 at the beginning of the '60s. Her moniker at birth: Loretta Webb (her first name was after actress Loretta Young, Lynn was her husband's name, which she got at age fourteen). Her exotic birthplace: as she sang about in one of her most famous songs, she was born in Butcher Holler, Kentucky.

IMPACT ON THE '60s: Loretta's impact on the '60s is not measured by her musical accomplishments (which were many), but by her status as a symbol of women's rights. Loretta broke through social barriers so that women everywhere, from those who were strong and independent to those who wanted to be strong and independent, could find something to admire about this simple country lady who pulled herself up from Appalachian poverty and fought through years of struggles to sing straight-shootin' songs and become one of the most successful women of the '60s. In part it was because it was easy to identify with Loretta: While pretty, she wasn't a staggering beauty, and while successful, she did have real-life problems to deal with, including having to raise six kids and handle a drinking, sometimes wayward, husband. When Loretta sang songs about divorce, men who drink, and the pill, she gave voice to women who were starting to find their strength, women who couldn't identify with other famous women singers of the times like raucous Janis Joplini or psychedelic Grace Slick. And Loretta's message was even stronger because she didn't just sing those controversial songs, she wrote them. The great Patsy Cline may have been a better singer, but she didn't write her own material as Loretta did. Once she became a symbol of the women's lib movement, Loretta embraced the hard-won freedoms: "More power to 'em," she said, "get on with it." Finally, Loretta established herself in a field -- country/western music -- that didn't have many successful women. Thanks to Loretta's pioneering work in the '60s, great stars like Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker were able to flourish in the '70s. Tanya herself, in a TV interview, said Loretta "was one of the first to tell it like it is." Tammy Wynette said, "Loretta definitely paved the way for me, I was always so proud of Loretta, she was so honest, she was so sincere." And in the '80s President George Bush summed up her impact succinctly: "Loretta is as close as you get to a household word in this country." Loretta herself remains humbled by the acclaim: "I don't believe in stars, except the ones you can look up and see," as quoted by Entertainment Weekly.

CAREER IN THE '60s: After signing her first record contract in '59, Loretta soon cut her first 45. That single, "Whispering Sea"  b/w "Honky Tonk Girl" (both composed by Loretta), was released on tiny Zero Records in '60 it was "Honky Tonk Girl" that jumped up to #14 on the Billboard charts. not "Whispering Sea" Much of this first success can be attributed to Loretta's relentless promotion: While her four kids stayed with her brother, Loretta and her husband Doolittle Lynn drove around the country and pitched the song to every small-town radio station they could find. Their determination paid off, and by '62 she had moved to Nashville and signed with a bigger company, Decca Records. "Success" in '62 was her first Decca hit, reaching the top ten on the charts. She also appeared at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and was invited back for 21 consecutive weeks by popular demand. By the mid-'60s she was the "queen of the blue-collar blues," establishing herself as a musical force on a national level and as a proponent of a tough, feminist stance. Her biggest hits late in the decade were "You Ain't Woman Enough" in '66, "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)" in '66, "Fist City" in '68, "Your Squaw Is On the Warpath" in '68, and "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)" in '69.

CAREER OUTSIDE THE '60s: Like the great Tammy Wynette, Loretta was born into a dirt-poor family. Growing up in Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains, Loretta Webb struggled for years before she became a success. There were no roads into her tiny town, just a dirt path. And her house was a tarpaper cabin. This was during the Depression, and to survive her mother did laundry for other people and her father worked as a road-builder out of town. Despite the hard times, Loretta remembers these as basically happy days:

"My early childhood memories probably are some of my best. They stuck with me more, and if they didn't I probably wouldn't be who I am today. If you don't remember who you are or where you come from, you get lost in the shuffle as you get older."

After World War II her father took a job in the coal mines, a dirty and dangerous place that eventually killed him with black lung disease in '51. Loretta, with seven brothers and sisters, was busy raising kids at an early age. By her early teens she was singing every night at home and writing her own songs. She auditioned for a local group and signed on with them, performing in the local hall for $5 a night. Soon she was popular enough to start up her own group, Loretta Lynn and the Trailblazers, and play in local towns six nights a week. After almost a decade of playing in Washington, in '59 she and Doolittle headed to California by car, there to try to land a record deal. Every studio turned them down until finally producer Speedy West saw her potential and cut her first record, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." When this became a modest hit in '60, Loretta's career was on its way. After the '60s, she enjoyed her greatest success and became the household name George Bush referred to. In '70 her song "Coal Miner's Daughter" hit #1 on the country charts. She became the first female millionaire in country music and bought a beautiful fourteen-room mansion in Tennessee. Early in the '70s she teamed up with Conway Twitty and enjoyed another run of hits, including "After the Fire Is Gone" in 71, "Lead Me On" in 71, "Lousiana Woman, Mississippi Man" in '73, and "As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone" in '74. In the middle of the decade she wrote and sang her most controversial song, "The Pill," which told the truth about women intelligently using the latest birth control method. While women across the country bought 15,000 copies a week and made the song a #1 hit, it was simultaneously denounced in churches and blacklisted at some radio stations. She followed up with "Pregnant Again," another hit. "Rated X" was another controversial song, this time about divorce. What these topical songs did was to enlarge the audience for country music, as new fans were attracted who had previously never listened to the genre before. Late in the decade she and Twitty had another half-dozen chart-topping hits. As Loretta's popularity swelled, she made the cover of People and Newsweek in the '70s, and numerous bios told her story, bringing even more people into the fold. Her own autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, was on bestseller lists for five months and led to a hit motion picture of the same name in 1980 (Sissy Spacek, hand-picked by Loretta, won the Oscar that year as Best Actress). By this time she had five-dozen top-twenty singles and fifteen #1 albums. She continued to record, although to a lesser degree, in the '80s, scoring hits with "I Lie" in '82 and "Heart Don't Do This to Me" in '85. In the late '80s Loretta used her considerable influence to help get George Bush elected president. She traveled with him and spoke in his behalf at rallies, even shouting down hecklers: "She's like an umpire in baseball," praised Bush, "call 'em as you see 'em." In the '90s she continued to tour, and she had another major recording success with the album Honky Tonk Angels, joined by Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton, in '93. She released her latest albums, Still Country in 2000 and in 2004 Van Lear Rose (produced by Jack White of the White Stripes) to critical acclaim. In fact, at the third annual Americana Music Awards ceremony in September, 2004, Van Lear Rose was named best album and Loretta was named artist of the year; then in February of 2005 the album won a Grammy Award as best country album and Loretta won an additional Grammy for best country collaboration. "I will never stop," she said, "it's all I know to do."

TALENT: Growing up, the people around her in Kentucky "made their own instruments," explained Loretta. "I learned how to play on a saw. ... They'd play in the evening and sing the songs that they wrote. 'Course us kids would be playing and dancing around." A self-taught guitarist, Loretta first learned on a guitar bought from a pawn shop by her husband as an anniversary present. While her kids were sleeping, in the late '50s she'd practice every night using a mail-order correspondence course as a guide. She would get good enough to be able to accompany herself on stage for the next forty years. Her bold songwriting style was developed out of necessity: With kids to feed and chores to do, she'd write anytime, on anything. Lyrics were scrawled on shoe boxes or paper bags, and she'd even write while driving. But the words came from her heart and from her own experiences, just as they always did in her mountain community where a rich folk-music tradition thrived:

"Back in the mountains," she told an interviewer, "they wrote about everything that happened. If anybody got killed they wrote about that, if anybody died they wrote about that, if anything happy that happened or if there was a day that was a good day, like Christmas, they wrote about that. There was always mountain music."

Her greatest ability might be her perseverance; in the mid-'60s, she would tour by bus every single day of the year but one, usually performing two shows a night. "You just get out there, and give 'em everything you got," she said. Loretta's won tons of awards during her career, starting with the Most Promising Female Artist award in '61, as voted on in a country/western poll. Billboard named her its Favorite Female Artist in '64, and for eleven consecutive years the Music City News voted her its #1 Female Artist. She and partner Conway Twitty were voted Vocal Duo of the Year by the Country Music Association every year from '72 to '75. Loretta was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in '88.

HER '60s LOOK: Loretta's look has veered from the traditional (lace, gowns, Western-style clothes) to the wildly unconventional (shocking bright colors, glittery blouses). When she won her Entertainer of the Year award in '72, she ran up to the stage in a lime-green gown. Later she'd accept awards wearing tight white pants, boots, and a silver-spangly top. Her black hair has usually been piled up in big curls that drip down her back. Unfortunately physical problems in 2001 caused her to cancel several shows: “I was in the hospital for thirteen days, and for about six or seven days the doctors thought I was gonna die,” she told the L.A. Times. “Well, I couldn’t let that happen.” According to the paper:

Loretta "did suffer a punctured lung that permanently reduced the singer’s lung capacity. 'Now I have to try to breathe real deep and let it out slow, but outside of that, I’m OK,' she says. Her illness struck just a few months after she’d returned to touring following almost a dozen years out of the music business, a time she spent caring for her ailing husband and manager, Oliver 'Doo' Mooney, who died in 1996."

LIFESTYLE: At age eleven Loretta met Doolittle Lynn, an older boy who was joining the army. He came back and married her when she was only fourteen. Still fourteen, she got pregnant, and Doolittle left her for another girl for four months. Loretta moved back home and pined for her husband. He came back in her seventh month of pregnancy and they started over. He hitchhiked to Washington state, got a job on a farm there, and sent for Loretta, who arrived soon after by train. They lived on the farm, where Doolittle had set up a still and sold moonshine to the locals (he got the nickname "Mooney" because of it). Loretta cleaned houses, picked strawberries, and cooked for the other farmhands. In '49 she gave birth to her first daughter. By the time she was eighteen, she had four kids. By the time she was 29 (1964), she was a grandmother. On August 6th of '64 she gave birth to twin girls, Patsy and Peggy, who were raised by Doolittle while Loretta continued on her brutal touring schedule. Health problems resulted as Loretta succumbed to migraines and an addiction to prescribed pain pills. During her touring days she was hospitalized nine times for exhaustion. Her long relationship with Mooney ended with his death in '96.

According to the L.A. Times, her 2000 album Still Country "included several songs that addressed the profound loss of the man she married when she was thirteen, who bought her her first guitar and who, in the words of the album’s centerpiece, 'I Can’t Hear the Music,' 'was my toughest critic and my biggest fan. When you’re married at thirteen and you are together for so long, it’s so hard,' she says, speaking haltingly as she struggles to get the words out. It didn’t hit her until after the album was done that she had gravitated toward so many songs about loss. 'When I started listening to it,' Lynn says, 'if it had been someone else singing I would have thought that person has lost someone. It’s been almost six years that I’ve lost him, and I don’t think you ever get over it. You may someday have a companion, but I think you’ll always love the one you love. I kinda think when you fall in love with someone, you never love anybody else. Heck, I was thirteen years old, I didn’t know what love was.' After pausing, she adds, 'But I guess maybe I did'."

EXTRAS: One of her sisters is Crystal Gayle, who had her own monster hit in the '70s, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" ... though Loretta's lack of education didn't stop her from becoming a success, Loretta always preached that education could help anyone: "Anybody in America that don't have an education, and never had a chance to have an education, can make a dream come true," she said in a televised interview, "but I would advise everybody to keep right on going to school and getting a great education" ... one of the earliest people to appreciate Loretta's talent was Waylon Jennings, who was working as a DJ in Coolidge, Arizona when Loretta and Doolittle showed up in '60 and got him to play "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl" on his station ... when she won her Country Music Entertainer of the Year award in '72, she brought the house down with her speech:

"I'd like to say that I've won a lot of awards ... I think this is the only one I hadn't won. The only thing I'm sad about is my husband is gone huntin' and he couldn't make it back to share my happiness with me"

... the year before the Coal Miner's Daughter movie was made, actress Sissy Spacek traveled with Loretta on tour to learn all her moves and habits, and the two became very close: "We can't get around each other because she curls right back into me," said Loretta ... in the '60s Loretta bought the town of Hurricane Mills, Tennesse, and in 70's opened it as tourist attraction,and in 88 added replicas of the coal mine where her father had worked and the tiny house where Loretta had grown up ... in the '80s Ladies Home Journal ranked her as one of the world's most-admired women, putting her in a pantheon with such other luminaries as Jackie Kennedy ... the White Stripes dedicated their blockbuster album White Blood Cells to Loretta ... she said the Jack White-produced album Van Lear Rose was "countrier than anything I've ever cut" ... when she accepted her Grammy Award in 2005, she said, "This is what this business is all about, ain't it?" in her acceptance speech and called on Jack White to say thank you also ...

On June 19th 2008 Loretta was inducted into the song writers hall of fame in NY She admitted that she'd had her fill of awards shows, but when she heard this one was centered around songwriting, she was eager to attend, observing that the honor meant "more to me than any award I've ever gotten for singing." in Loretta Fashion she stole the show An anticipatory roar from the audience filled the room as Lynn headed toward the center-stage microphone. Within a few seconds, the jaws of nearly every member of the seen-it-all crowd plunged downward in joyous disbelief, for the voice that emanated from this country music veteran was virtually indistinguishable from that heard on her epochal '60s hits, other than the fact that it was charged at that moment with perhaps even more verve and emotion as she launched into the autobiographical "Coal Miner's Daughter." With no prodding from the stage, the audience spontaneously began clapping along, Loretta tried to leave but they wanted more so she came back and sang don't come home a drinking. whats next? Loretta says she is finishing her two records one of classic hits and one of new songs as Loretta stated real songs !!!

                                                                           

                                                                                          

 

LiLith Fair Loretta BIO

For over five decades now, Loretta has fashioned a body of work as artistically and commercially successful—and as culturally significant—as any female performer you’d care to name. Her music has confronted many of the major social issues of her time, and her life story is a rags-to-riches tale familiar to pop, rock and country fans alike. The Coal Miner’s Daughter—the tag refers to a hit single, an album, a best-selling autobiography, an Oscar-winning film, and to Lynn herself—has journeyed from the poverty of the Kentucky hills to Nashville superstardom to her current status as an honest-to-goodness American icon.

Her latest album, the Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose, is poised now to remind the world yet again of Lynn’s power as a vocalist and her skill as a songwriter. As she puts it on “Story of My Life,” the new album’s closing track: “Not half bad for this ol’ KY girl, I guess... Here’s the story of my life. Listen close, I’ll tell it twice.”

Loretta was born in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, the second of Clara and Ted Webb’s eight children. Just as she would later sing in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta’s family eked out a living during the Depression on the “poor man’s dollar” her father managed to earn “work{ing] all night in the Van Leer coal mine [and] all day long in the field a-hoein’ corn.” As she also notes in that song, “I never thought of leavin’ Butcher Holler.” But that was before she met Oliver Lynn (aka Doolittle or Doo, or “Mooney” for moonshine), a handsome 21-year-old fresh from the service who swept the young Loretta Webb off her feet. The couple married when Loretta was barely 14.

Looking for a future that didn’t require him to work the mines, Doo found work in Custer, Washington, and Loretta joined him in 1951. The following decade found Lynn a full-time mother—four kids by the time she began singing seriously in 1961—of precisely the sort she would one day sing to and for. In her spare time, though, with Doo’s encouragement, she learned to play the guitar and began singing in the area. During one televised talent contest in Tacoma, hosted by Buck Owens, Loretta was spotted by Norm Burley who was so impressed he started Zero Records just to record her.

Before long, Loretta and Doo hit the road cross-country, stopping every time they spotted a country radio station to push her first Zero release, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” By the time they reached Nashville, the record was a. minor hit and Loretta found work cutting demos for the publishing company of Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. One of these, Kathryn Fulton’s “Biggest Fool of All,” caught the ear of Decca Records producer Owen Bradley. He thought the song would be perfect for Brenda Lee, but the Wilburns worked a deal—you can have the song if you record Loretta. Soon, Loretta was in the studio cutting sides with Bradley, producer at the time not only for Lee but Patsy Cline, Bill Anderson, and Webb Pierce.

At this early stage of her career, Loretta was greatly influenced by Kitty Wells, the groundbreaking “girl singer” who turned the tables on several decades worth of male double standards with the 1952 classic, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.” Like Kitty’s, Loretta’s delivery on “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” was twangy and nasal, rhythmically straight up and down, plainspoken and emotionally understated. Such a down-home vocal style was Loretta’s birthright; it was more or less the way she had sang back in Kentucky, it was the style she took with her to Washington, and it was a vocal approach particularly well-suited to the duet sides she soon made in Nashville with honky-tonk legend Ernest Tubb. (“Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be,” from 1964, was the pair’s first and biggest hit.)

Working with Bradley in Nashville, however, Lynn quickly fell under the musical spell of new friend Patsy Cline. Patsy’s distinctive style, marked by dramatic slides, growls and crescendos, was more modern and “pop” sounding than that of Wells’ and the other female country singers of the day. It’s not surprising then that “Success,” the 1962 single that became Loretta’s first Top Ten hit (and that was later covered by Elvis Costello on his Almost Blue album) showcased Loretta in a full-throated, string-backed setting that’s more than a little reminiscent of Patsy Cline.

Out of these influences, Lynn soon fashioned her distinctive style—a mature fusion of twang, grit, energy and libido—an approach she first perfected in the songs of other writers. In “Wine, Women, and Song,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Blue Kentucky Girl,” each a Top Ten hit in 1964, Loretta played a plucky young woman who alternated between waiting for her wayward man to walk back in the door and threatening to walk out herself.

Such hits were early hints of Loretta’s undeniably strong female point of view—a perspective unique at the time both to country music specifically and to pop music generally and a trend in her music that became further pronounced as she began to write more of her own songs. In her first self-penned song to crack the Top Ten, 1966’s “Dear Uncle Sam,” Loretta presented herself as a woman who was going to fight to keep what was important to her, even if that meant questioning the wisdom of her government. Indeed, “Dear Uncle Sam” was among the very first recordings to recount the human costs of the Vietnam War. “Doo encouraged me to write that one,” she recalls today. “I was wondering what it would be like to have someone over there and what I would do if I did.” (The song made a return to Lynn’s live sets with the coming of the Iraq war.)

Over the next few years, Loretta wrote a string of hits unprecedented for their take-no-crap women narrators. In “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man)” [#2, 1966], “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind)” [#1, 1967], and “Fist City” [#1, 1968], among others, Loretta presented a new character on the country scene: a woman unafraid to stand up for herself, just like real women did. Drawing upon her own experiences as a harried young wife and mother, and upon a homespun sense of humor at once both pointed and hilarious, Loretta issued warnings to soused and philandering hubbies everywhere—and to the female competition—that she was not to be trifled with. In her words, “You better close your face and stay out of my way if you don’t wanna go to Fist City.”

[Note: As on most of Lynn’s biggest solo hits, the studio band for the above numbers included members of Nashville’s famed A-Team: guitarist Grady Martin, six-string electric bassist Harold Bradley, bass player Junior Huskey, pianist Floyd Cramer, drummer Buddy Harman, and pedal steel guitarist Hal Rugg.]

As the ‘60s turned into the ‘70s, Lynn forever solidified her reputation as an advocate for ordinary women. Typically, Loretta’s brand of women’s liberation was attuned specifically to the lives of her blue-collar audience, the wives and mothers who were far too overwhelmed by the demands of, say, childcare to place much stock in symbolic foolishness like bra burning. Indeed, while a guest on The Dick Frost Show, Loretta once famously dozed off while listening to the upper-middle class feminist Betty Freidan talk theory with the show’s host.

Loretta was more interested in life as it was lived—in the kitchen and in the bedroom--by millions of working-class women everyday. For example, “One’s on the Way,” a Shel Silverstein-penned hit from 1971, let Lynn voice the concerns of a harried Topeka woman, worn out from raising her kids, cleaning the house, and dealing with a husband with enough free time to be calling her from a bar while she’s home making dinner.
But it was with her own songs that Loretta best conveyed the complexity of women’s lives. In “I Wanna Be Free,” Loretta reveled in the possibilities a divorce might bring (“I’m gonna take this chain from around my finger, and throw it just as far as I can sling ‘er”), while in “Rated X” she complained that new divorcees were inevitably treated like easy women. In “I Know How,” she boasted of her sexual prowess; in “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill,” she bemoaned the loss of desire that accompanies a bad marriage; and in “The Pill,” a record banned by many radio stations in its day, she captured perfectly the power of birth control to let women love without the passion-dowsing fear of pregnancy: “The feelin’ good comes easy now since I’ve got the pill!”

Each of the above songs was a Top Three country hit between 1968 and 1975, and Loretta Lynn (to paraphrase the title of a 1970 album) both wrote ‘em and sang ‘em. The same was true, of course, of her signature song, the 1970 chart- topper “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which chronicled for all time the strides women were making in these years—from country to city, from home to workforce and, in Lynn’s case, from “girl-singer” to superstar.

The immense popularity of these songs, as well as other straight-shooting hits like “Your Squaw Is on the Warpath,” “Women of the World (Leave My World Alone)," and “You’re Looking at Country,” culminated in 1972 when Lynn won her second Best Female Vocalist award from the Country Music Association—and when she became the first woman to win the CMA’s most prestigious award, Entertainer of the Year.

It didn’t hurt that sprinkled among her many solo hits was a series of amazing collaborations between Loretta and her dear friend, singer Conway Twitty. Indeed, Loretta also won her first Vocal Duo of the Year award in 1972, with Conway, a title the team held onto through 1976. (And this in the years when the duet competition annually included Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton and George Jones & Tammy Wynette!) The pair’s close harmony style and dramatic song selections—especially, “After the Fire Is Gone,” “Lead Me On,” “As Soon As I Hang up the Phone,” and “Feelin’s”—explored adult romantic relationships as wrenchingly as any records ever made.

Through the next decade, Loretta scored more and more hits—and became more and more famous beyond her country base. In 1973, she appeared on the cover of Newsweek; in 1976 her autobiography (written with journalist George Vescey) became a New York Times Bestseller; in 1980 the book was made into a hit film starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. By the time of her last major hit—”I Lie,” in 1982—Lynn could count 52 Top 10 hits and 16 #1’s.

Loretta Lynn spent the ‘90s largely away from the spotlight, caring for her ailing husband Doo and, after he died in 1996, grieving his loss. The music scene has changed considerably in her absence but it’s also a scene she helped create. Indeed, it would be all but impossible to imagine the likes of Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine” and Deana Carter’s “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” or any number of Dixie Chicks hits, without her. Van Lear Rose, with its moody, propulsive arrangements, loud and rocking guitars and intimate songwriting, can only extend Lynn’s profound influence into a new century—and to a new generation of fans