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LORETTA LYNN,
1932-2022

Loretta Lynn, the coal miner’s daughter who turned stories about the hardships women face into country music hits in the 1960s and '70s and became one of the genre’s most beloved figures, died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. She was 90.

The home page of her website prominently displayed this quote from Lynn: “To make it in this business, you either have to be first, great or different. And I was the first to ever go into Nashville singin’ it like the women lived it.”

She also stood out by writing much of her own material. Inspired by the melodies of the honky-tonk country and Appalachian music she heard growing up in Kentucky, Lynn wrote songs that addressed a changing America, among them “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man),” “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Hey Loretta,” “Rated X” and “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” 

Beyond the music, her autobiography and the film Coal Miner’s Daughter broadened Lynn’s appeal. Fans relished the pride she took in her Southern heritage, the fight she waged against outdated ideas of marriage and sex and the possibility she promised against the backdrop of traditional country music.

Country radio did not initially cotton to Lynn’s challenging the norms of the genre, banning 14 of her songs. Most prominent was 1975’s “The Pill,” which 60 stations kept off its airwaves. In the '60s and '70s, no artist had more songs banned from radio airplay than Lynn.

Nonetheless, the Academy of Country Music would name Lynn its artist of the decade for the 1970s. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. She received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement, a Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“It's not enough to say today that country music has lost Loretta Lynn; the world has lost a legend,” said Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern. “Loretta was a woman whose contributions and impact inspired countless artists and transformed the country genre into a universal art form. As a trailblazing songwriter, she bravely wrote about socially and culturally relevant topics that came to define a generation. I'll remember Loretta for her spirit, artistry and a genius that rivaled contemporaries like Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.”

“There simply is not another female artist whose songwriting and artistry have blazed more of a trail or had more impact on the country music industry—and the world—than Loretta Lynn,” Academy of Country Music CEO Damon Whiteside said. “The true ‘Queen of Country’ had a massive impact on the history and legacy of the Academy, earning 14 ACM Awards, including Entertainer of the Year in 1975, making her the first female to win that coveted trophy. She was also honored with the ACM Artist of the Decade Award for her fearless and legendary work in the 1970s, again the first and only female to achieve that.

“I was personally honored to work with her family last year for ACM Honors when we celebrated Loretta’s groundbreaking contributions as a songwriter by honoring her with the ACM Poet’s Award. While we all feel the deep loss of an icon, Loretta’s spirit will continue to guide today’s artists and songwriters for decades to come.”

Signed to Decca Records, Lynn scored her first Top 10 country single with “Success” in 1962. Eight years later she’d be declared the top-charting female country singer of the decade—by 1980, she'd amassed 51 Top 10s. Among her 16 #1 singles were “After the Fire Is Gone” with Conway Twitty, which resulted in her winning the first of three Grammy Awards. Lynn and Twitty would score another four #1 duets between 1971 and ’75.

Lynn’s career was managed by her husband, Oliver Vanetta "Doolittle" Lynn Jr., whom she married at age 15. He was a hard-drinking womanizer whose actions sparked several of her songs. He was also her earliest supporter, getting her a guitar and encouraging her to sing in public after the couple moved to Custer, Wash., in the late 1940s. She was discovered performing in Tacoma, Wash., and secured a deal with Zero Records, which released her first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” a Top 15 country hit in 1960.

Lynn’s recording career stopped in 1988 save for a 1993 album with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette, Honky Tonk Angels (Columbia). She focused on concerts, operated a studio and museum at her home and sponsored an annual motocross race, spending much of the early ’90s caring for her husband, who died in August 1996. They were married for 48 years.

Lynn returned to recording with 2004's Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose (Interscope). She received two Grammy Awards for the effort—Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Portland, Oregon.”

Her final album was 2021’s Still Woman Enough, produced by John Carter Cash and released by Sony Legacy. It was the fourth of a planned five-album series that started with 2016’s Full Circle

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