(Read all about Loretta Lynn after the videos)
Loretta Lynn ( is a multiple gold album American country music singer-songwriter whose work spans almost 60 years. She has received numerous awards and other accolades for her groundbreaking role in country music, including awards from both the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music as a duet partner and individual artist. She remains the most awarded female country recording artist, including her being the only female ACM Artist of the Decade (1970s). Webb; born April 14, 1932)
Lynn is the second of eight children born to homemaker Clara Marie "Clary" ( Her older brother Melvin (born December 4, 1929) died on July 1, 1993. Her six younger siblings are: Ramey; May 5, 1912 – November 24, 1981) and coal miner Melvin Theodore "Ted" Webb (October 24, 1906 – February 23, 1959).
- Herman Webb (September 3, 1934)
- Jay Lee (born Willie Lee Webb; February 12, 1936 – July 31, 1996)
- Donald Ray Webb (April 2, 1941)
- Peggy Sue Wright ( Webb; March 24, 1943)
- Betty Ruth Webb (January 5, 1946)
- Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb; January 9, 1951)
Lynn's father would die at age 52 of Black lung disease a few years after relocating with wife Clary and Lynn's younger siblings to Wabash, Indiana.
Path to stardom
In January 1948, 15-year-old Loretta married Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn (1926–1996). Their life together inspired the music she wrote.
In 1953 Doolittle bought her a $17 Harmony guitar. She taught herself to play. Over the following three years she worked to improve her guitar playing and with Doolittle's encouragement started her own band, "Loretta and the Trailblazers", with her brother, Jay Lee, playing lead guitar. She often appeared at Bill's Tavern in Blaine, Washington, and the Delta Grange Hall in Custer, Washington, with the Pen Brothers' band and The Westerneers. She eventually cut her first record, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl", in February 1960.
She became a part of the country music scene in Nashville in the 1960s, and in 1967 charted her first of 16 number-one hits (out of 70 charted songs as a solo artist and a duet partner) that include "Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)", "You Ain't Woman Enough", "Fist City", and "Coal Miner's Daughter".
Lynn focused on blue-collar women's issues with themes about philandering husbands and persistent mistresses, inspired by issues she faced in her marriage. She pushed boundaries in the conservative genre of country music by singing about birth control ("The Pill"), repeated childbirth ("One's on the Way"), double standards for men and women ("Rated "X""), and being widowed by the draft during the Vietnam War ("Dear Uncle Sam").
Country music radio stations often refused to play her music, banning nine of her songs, but Lynn pushed on to become one of country music's legendary artists. Lynn and contemporaries like Tammy Wynette provided a template for female artists in country music to follow. In 1980, her best-selling 1976 autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter was made into an Academy Award-winning film, Coal Miner's Daughter, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. Her most recent album, Van Lear Rose, released in 2004, was produced by fellow musician Jack White; Lynn and White were nominated for five Grammys and won two.
Lynn has received numerous awards in country and American music. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983, the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1988, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, and she was honored in 2010 at the Country Music Awards. Her most recent honor is the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama (awarded also to Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Bob Dylan). Lynn has been a member of The Grand Ole Opry since joining on September 25, 1962; her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry was on October 15, 1960. Lynn has recorded 70 albums, including 54 studio albums, 15 compilation albums, and one tribute album, and has sold over 48 million albums worldwide in her career.
Birth, parents and siblings, and famous relatives
Loretta Lynn was born and raised in Butcher Hollow, Van Lear, Kentucky, a mining community near Paintsville. Her mother was of Scots-Irish and Cherokee ancestry.
Loretta was the second of eight children. She was named after film star Loretta Young. Ted Webb never got to see his daughter become famous, as he died in 1959 of Coalworker's pneumoconiosis (commonly known as Black lung or Black lung disease) before Loretta's first single, "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl", was released.
Besides Lynn's famous siblings and children that perform, Loretta is also related to country singer Patty Loveless. Loveless, born Patricia Ramey, is related to Lynn on her mother's side, as is Venus Ramey, Miss America 1944.
At age 15 Lynn married 21-year-old Oliver Vanetta Lynn, known variously as "Doolittle", "Doo", or "Mooney", on January 10, 1948. The couple had met one month earlier in December 1947. A year later the couple left Kentucky and moved to the logging community of Custer, Washington, while Lynn was seven months pregnant with the first of their six children.
Children and grandchildren
The Lynns had three children by the time Loretta was 19 and she gave birth to their fourth child, Cissie, by age 20. The Lynns had six children altogether:
- Betty Sue Lynn, November 26, 1948 – July 29, 2013 (aged 64) from emphysema
- Jack Benny Lynn, December 7, 1949 – July 22, 1984 (aged 34) by drowning.
- Ernest Ray Lynn, May 27, 1951
- Clara Marie Lynn (Cissy), April 7, 1952
- Peggy Jean and Patsy Eileen Lynn (twins; latter named for Patsy Cline), August 6, 1964
Lynn has survived two of her six children. Her second child and eldest son, Jack Benny, died at age 34 on July 22, 1984, while trying to ford the Duck River at the family's ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Loretta's eldest child, daughter Betty Sue, died at age 64 from emphysema on July 29, 2013, near Loretta's ranch in Hurricane Mills. She became a grandmother at age 34 in 1966, two years after her twins were born. She has 21 grandchildren as of April 2014. Before her marriage, she regularly sang at churches and in local concerts in Butcher Hollow and sang continuously to her younger siblings. After marrying, she temporarily stopped singing in public, focusing on family life. She passed her love of music on to her children, often singing to them around the house, singing the hymns her mother taught her such as "The Great Titanic" and "In The Pines".
Although the Lynns were married for almost fifty years (Doolittle died on August 22, 1996) and had six children, their marriage was reportedly rocky. In her 2002 autobiography, Still Woman Enough, and in an interview with CBS News the same year, Lynn recounts how her husband cheated on her regularly and once left her while she was giving birth. Lynn and her husband fought frequently; but she has said that "[H]e never hit me one time that I didn't hit him back twice". Loretta has said that her marriage with Mooney was "One of the hardest love stories".Lynn recalls in one of her autobiographies:
I married Doo when I wasn't but a child, and he was my life from that day on. But as important as my youth and upbringing was, there's something else that made me stick to Doo. He thought I was something special, more special than anyone else in the world, and never let me forget it. That belief would be hard to shove out the door. Doo was my security, my safety net. And just remember, I'm explainin', not excusin'... Doo was a good man and a hard worker. But he was an alcoholic, and it affected our marriage all the way through.
Lynn owns a ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, billed as "The 7th Largest Attraction in Tennessee", featuring a recording studio, museums, lodging, restaurants, western stores, and other attractions. She normally holds three holiday concerts annually at her ranch: Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July Weekend, and Labor Day Weekend.
Lynn's ranch, where she and her husband raised their children, is open for tourists to visit. For over 30 years the ranch hosted Lynn's Amateur Motocross National Championship, the world's largest amateur motocross race, in addition to GNCC Racing events. The centerpiece of the ranch is her large plantation home; it also features a replica of her parents' cabin in Butcher Hollow. She no longer lives in the plantation home.
During the 1970s Lynn purchased a home in Mexico and spent her time off from touring there with her twin daughters, Patsy and Peggy, and her husband.
Injury and recovery
In 2006 Lynn underwent shoulder surgery after injuring herself in a fall. There were complications during the procedure and she had to be revived by doctors. The surgery was successfully completed later.
1960–1966: Early country success
Lynn began singing in local clubs in the late 1950s with help, insistence, and support from her husband. She later formed her own band, the Trailblazers, which included her brother Jay Lee Webb. Lynn won a televised talent contest in Tacoma, Washington, hosted by Buck Owens, for which the prize was a wristwatch that broke 24 hours later(Lynn later laughed about it with Owens). Lynn's performance was seen by Canadian Norm Burley of Zero Records, who co-founded the record company after hearing Loretta sing.
Zero Records president, Canadian Don Grashey, arranged a recording session in Hollywood, where four of Lynn's own compositions were recorded: "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl", "Whispering Sea", "Heartache Meet Mister Blues", and "New Rainbow". Her first release featured "Whispering Sea" and "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl". She signed her first contract on February 2, 1960, with Zero; the material was recorded at United Western Recorders in Hollywood, engineered by Don Blake and produced by Grashey. Musicians backing on the songs were "the great" steel guitar player Speedy West, Harold Hensely on fiddle, Roy Lanham on guitar, Al Williams on bass, and Muddy Berry on drums. She commented on the different sound of her first record: "Well, there is a West Coast sound that is definitely not the same as the Nashville sound ... It was a shuffle with a West Coast beat".
The Lynns then toured the country to promote the release to country stations, while Grashey and Del Roy took the music to KFOX in Long Beach, California. When the Lynns reached Nashville, the song was a hit, climbing to No. 14 on Billboard's C & W Chart, and Lynn began cutting demo records for the Wilburn Brothers Publishing Company. Through the Wilburns, she secured a contract with Decca Records. From the onset of her career fans took notice and rallied behind her all the way, with the first Loretta Lynn Fan Club formed in November 1960. By the end of the year Billboard magazine listed Lynn as the No. 4 Most Promising Country Female Artist.
Lynn's relationship with the Wilburn Brothers and her appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, beginning in 1960, helped Lynn become the number one female recording artist in country music. Her contract with the Wilburn Brothers gave them the publishing rights to her material. She was still fighting to regain these rights 30 years after ending her business relationship with them but was ultimately denied the publishing rights. Lynn stopped writing music in the 1970s because of these contracts. Although Kitty Wells had become the first major female country vocalist during the 1950s, by the time Lynn recorded her first record, only three other women - Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, and Jean Shepard - had become top stars. Lynn joined The Grand Ole Opry on September 25, 1962.
By the end of 1962 it was clear that she was on her way to becoming the fourth. Lynn has credited Cline as her mentor and best friend during those early years. In 2010, when interviewed for Jimmy Mcdonough's biography of Tammy Wynette, Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen, Loretta mentioned having best friends in Patsy and Tammy during different times: "Best friends are like husbands. You only need one at a time."
Lynn released her first Decca single, "Success," in 1962, and it went straight to #6, beginning a string of Top 10 singles that would run through the rest of the decade and throughout the next. She was a hard honky-tonk singer for the first half of the 1960s and rarely strayed from the genre. Between this time, Lynn soon began to regularly hit the Top 10 after 1964 with "Before I'm Over You", which peaked at No. 4, followed by "Wine, Women and Song," which peaked at No. 3. In late 1964, she recorded a duet album with Ernest Tubb. Their lead single, "Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be", peaked within the Top 15. Together, the pair recorded two more albums, "Singin' Again" (1967) and "If we Put Our Heads Together" (1969). In 1965, her solo career continued with three major hits, "Happy Birthday", "Blue Kentucky Girl" (later recorded and made a Top 10 hit in the 1970s by Emmylou Harris), and "The Home You're Tearing Down". Lynn's label issued two albums that year, "Songs from My Heart" and "Blue Kentucky Girl". While most were Top 10 Country hits, none reached #1.
Lynn's first self-penned song to crack the Top Ten, 1966's "Dear Uncle Sam", was among the very first recordings to recount the human costs of the Vietnam War. In the latter half of the decade, although she still worked within the confines of honky tonk, her sound became more personal, varied, and ambitious, particularly lyrically. Beginning with 1966's Number 1 hit in Cash Box, "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)", Lynn began writing songs with a feminist viewpoint, which was unheard of in country music. This song made Lynn the first country female recording artist to pen a No. 1 hit.
1967–1980: Breakthrough success
In 1967 Lynn reached No. 1 with "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)". "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin" went to No. 1 and became one of the first albums by a female country artist to reach sales of 500,000 copies.
Lynn's next album, Fist City, was released in 1968. The title track became Lynn's second No. 1 hit, as a single in earlier that year, and the other single from the album, "What Kind of a Girl (Do You Think I Am)", peaked within the Top 10. In 1968, her next studio album, Your Squaw Is on the Warpath, spawned two Top 5 Country hits: the title track and "You've Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me)". In 1969, her next single, "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)", was Lynn's third chart-topper, followed by a subsequent Top 10, "To Make a Man (Feel Like a Man)". She was reportedly once inspired to write a song about a real woman she suspected was flirting with her husband. The song, "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)", was an instant hit and became one of Lynn's all-time most popular. Her career continued to be successful into the 1970s, especially following the success of her hit "Coal Miner's Daughter", which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1970, and the album has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. "Coal Miner's Daughter" tells the story of Lynn's life growing up in rural Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. The song became her first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 83. She had a series of singles that charted low on the Hot 100 between 1970 and 1975. The song "Coal Miner's Daughter" later served as the impetus for the best-selling autobiography (1976) and the Oscar-winning biopic, both of which share the song's title.
In 1973 Rated "X" peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart and was considered one of Lynn's most controversial hits. The next year, her next single, "Love Is the Foundation", also became a No. 1 country hit from her album of the same name. The second and last single from that album, "Hey Loretta", became a Top 5 hit. Lynn continued to reach the Top 10 until the end of the decade, including with 1975's "The Pill", considered to be the first song to discuss birth control, other than the 1967 French-language song in French, Pilule d'Or, sung by Luc Dominique. As a songwriter, Lynn felt no topic was off limits, as long as it spoke to other women, and many of her songs were autobiographical. In 1976, she released her autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, with the help of writer George Vecsey. It became a #1 bestseller, making Lynn the first country music artist to make the New York Times bestseller list. This opened a flood gate of country artists who followed with books. By the early 1980s Lynn became the first American female recording artist to chart over fifty top ten hits.
Professional partnership with Conway Twitty
In 1971 Lynn began a professional partnership with Conway Twitty. As a duo, Lynn and Twitty had five consecutive Number 1 hits between 1971 and 1975: their first release "After the Fire Is Gone" (1971),won them a Grammy award, "Lead Me On" (1971), "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" (1973), "As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone" (1974), and "Feelins'" (1974). The hit-streak kick-started what became one of the most successful duos of country history. For four consecutive years (1972–1975), Lynn and Twitty were named the "Vocal Duo of the Year" by the Country Music Association. The Academy of Country Music named them the "Best Vocal Duet" in 1971, 1974, 1975, and 1976. The American Music awards selected them as the "Favorite Country Duo" in 1975, 1976 and 1977. The fan-voted Music City News readers voted them the No. 1 duet every year between 1971 and 1981 inclusive. In addition to their five Number 1 singles, they had seven other Top 10 hits between 1976 and 1981. Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty are the most successful and most awarded male/female duet teams in country music history. Conway and Loretta, their duo name, released an album in 1977 titled "Dynamic Duo" and were considered that by their many fans.
As a solo artist, Lynn continued to be very successful into 1971, achieving her fifth No. 1 solo hit, "One's on the Way", written by poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein. The songs that didn't reach the top spot peaked within the Top 10 during this time, "I Wanna Be Free", "You're Lookin' At Country" and 1972's "Here I Am Again", all released on separate albums. The next year, she became the first country star on the cover of Newsweek. In 1972, Lynn was the first woman nominated and the first woman to win the prestigious Entertainer Of The Year award at The CMA awards. She won the Female Vocalist Of The Year and Duo of the year with Conway Twitty, beating out George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton.
Tribute album for Patsy Cline
In 1977 Lynn recorded I Remember Patsy, an album dedicated to her friend and country pop singer Patsy Cline, who had died in a plane crash in 1963. The album covered some of Cline's biggest hits. The two singles Lynn released from the album, "She's Got You" and "Why Can't He Be You", became major hits. "She's Got You", which went to #1 by Cline in 1962, went to #1 again that year by Lynn. "Why Can't He Be You" peaked at #7 shortly afterward. Lynn enjoyed enormous success on country radio until the early 1980s, when a more pop-flavored type of country music began to dominate the market. She stayed within the country Top 10 until the mid-1980s; however, most of her music by the late 1970s had a slick pop sound to it. Lynn had her last No. 1 hit in 1978 with "Out of My Head and Back in My Bed".
In 1979 she had two Top 5 hits, "I Can't Feel You Anymore" and "I've Got a Picture of Us on My Mind", from separate albums. Lynn would often sit for an hour or more onstage signing autographs to her fans after a performance. Once in Salisbury, Maryland, the town's newspaper editor interviewed her while she was signing autographs. Editor Mel Toadvine asked her why she took so much time to sign autographs while more than 100 people stood in line all the way to the front of the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. "These people are my fans ... I'll stay here until the very last one wants my autograph. Without these people, I am nobody. I love these people", she told Toadvine. In 1979, she became the spokesperson for Procter & Gamble's Crisco oil and did TV commercials and print ads for them for a decade, ending in 1989. Because of her dominant hold on the 1970s, Lynn was named the "Artist of the Decade" by the Academy of Country Music. She is the only woman to win this honor.[unreliable source?]
1980–1989: Continued success
On March 5, 1980, the film Coal Miner's Daughter debuted in Nashville, and soon became the No. 1 box office hit in the United States. Lynn crossed over from country music superstar to American legend. The film starred Sissy Spacek as Loretta and Tommy Lee Jones as Mooney Lynn. The film received seven Academy Award nominations, winning a Best Actress Oscar for Spacek and a slew of other top honors, including a gold album for the soundtrack album, a Grammy nomination for Spacek's singing as Lynn, a Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards, plus several Golden Globe awards. The 1980s featured more hits ("Pregnant Again", "Naked in the Rain", "Somebody Led Me Away"). Her 1980 and 1981 albums, Loretta and Lookin' Good spawned these hits. Lynn was the first woman in country music to have 50 Top 10 hits. Her last Top 10 record as a soloist was "I Lie" in 1982, but her releases continued to chart until the end of the decade. Lynn continued to have Top 20 hits throughout the 1980s.
One of her last solo releases was "Heart Don't Do This to Me" (1985), which reached No. 19; her last Top 20 hit. In 1993, Lynn stopped releasing singles and focused more on touring than promoting. As a concert artist, she remained a top draw throughout her career, but by the early 1990s she drastically cut down the number of personal appearances due to the fragile health of her husband, who died in 1996. Her 1985 album Just a Woman spawned a Top 40 hit. In 1987, Lynn lent her voice to a song on k.d. lang's album, Shadowland with other country stars, Kitty Wells and Brenda Lee, "Honky Tonk Angels Medley". They released a video for this medley, the album went gold and was Grammy nominated for the four women. Lynn's 1988 album Who Was That Stranger would be her last solo album for a major record company as a solo artist. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
1990–2004: Return to country: Honky Tonk Angels, Still Country and second autobiography
Lynn returned to the public eye in 1993 with a hit CD, the trio album Honky Tonk Angels, recorded with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. The CD peaked at #6 on the Billboard Country charts and #42 on the Billboard Pop charts and charted a single with "Silver Threads and Golden Needles". They released a popular video of this song. The album sold over 800,000 copies and was certified gold in the United States and Canada. The trio was nominated for Grammy and Country Music Association awards. Lynn's former singing partner, Conway Twitty, died in 1993. Tammy Wynette died five years later on April 6, 1998. She released a three-CD boxed set chronicling her career on MCA Records. In 1995 she taped a seven-week series on the Nashville Network (TNN), Loretta Lynn & Friends, and performed some 50 dates that year.
In 1995 Loretta was presented with the Pioneer Award at the 30th Academy of Country Music Awards. She only did a few performances that year because of her husband's failing health. In 1996 she became widowed, Lynn's husband Oliver Vanetta "Doolittle" Lynn died five days short of his 70th birthday. In 2000 she released her first album in several years, Still Country, in which she included "I Can't Hear the Music", a tribute song to her late husband. She released her first new single in over 10 years from the album, "Country in My Genes", when the single charted on the Billboard Country singles chart it made Lynn the first woman in Country Music to chart singles in five decades. While the album gained positive critical notices, sales were low in comparison with her previous releases. In 2002 Lynn published her second autobiography, Still Woman Enough, and became her second New York Times bestseller peaking in the top ten. In 2004 she published a cookbook, You're Cookin' It Country.
2004–present: Late career resurgence: Van Lear Rose and Full Circle
In 2004 Lynn made a comeback with the highly successful album Van Lear Rose, the second album on which Lynn either wrote or co-wrote every song. The album was produced by her "friend forever" Jack White of The White Stripes, and featured guitar work and backup vocals by White. Her collaboration with White allowed Lynn to reach new audiences and generations, even garnering high praise in magazines that specialize in mainstream and alternative rock music, such as Spin and Blender. Rolling Stone voted the album the second best of 2004. It won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album of the Year.
Late in 2010 Sony Music released a new album, titled Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn, featuring stars like Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Paramore, and Carrie Underwood performing Loretta's classic hits over the past 50 years. The CD produced a Top 10 music video hit on GAC with the lead single, "Coal Miner's Daughter", that Lynn recorded with Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow. The single cracked the Billboard singles chart making Lynn the only female Country artist to chart in six decades. In May 2010 Lynn performed at the Nelsonville Music Festival in Nelsonville, Ohio. In 2012 Lynn published her third autobiography, Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics. She contributed her take on the Civil War era song "Take Your Gun and Go, John" to Divided & United: Songs of the Civil War, which was released on November 5, 2013.
In November 2015 Lynn announced a March 2016 release: Full Circle, featuring Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello. The recording became Lynn's 40th album to make the top ten on Billboard's best selling Country LPS list and her album career peak on the pop Billboard Hot 200, debuting at #19. The recording is combination of new songs and re-recorded old classics and includes duets with Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson.