Dolly Parton, Sissy Spacek and more pay tribute to Loretta Lynn
Written by ABC AUDIO on October 5, 2022
The love for Loretta Lynn flowed freely Tuesday after news of her death at the age of 90 was announced.
Lynn was mourned on social media by friends and fans who admired the pioneering woman of country music, whose story was told in the 1980 film “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
Actress Sissy Spacek, who won an Oscar for portraying Lynn in the film, said she is “heartbroken” over the death of the country music star.
“Today is a sad day. The world lost a magnificent human being. Loretta Lynn was a great artist, a strong and resilient country music pioneer and a precious friend. I am heartbroken. I send my deepest sympathies to her wonderful family, her friends, and her loyal fans,” Spacek said in a statement to CNN.
Dolly Parton, who was close to Lynn, posted a statement on social media, which began, “So sorry to hear about my sister, friend Loretta.”
“We’ve been like sisters all the years we’ve been in Nashville and she was a wonderful human being, wonderful talent, had millions of fans and I’m one of them,” Parton wrote. “I miss her dearly as we all will. May she rest in peace.”
Singer Martina McBride posted on her verified Instagram account a throwback photo of her and Lynn.
“It’s so hard to feel like you have the right words. I can hear Loretta saying ‘just take your time honey,’” McBride wrote in the caption. “We all loved her so much. There will never be another like her. I am so grateful that I got to know her, to spend time with her, laugh with her…..I was always a little astonished when she called me her friend.”
Legendary songwriter Carole King tweeted a photo of Lynn smiling at a piano, writing, “She was an inspiration. R.I.P. Loretta Lynn.”
Country singer Kacey Musgraves kept it brief, tweeting simply “Loretta” with a broken heart emoji.
Country music icon Loretta Lynn dies at 90
Loretta Lynn, the country music star who brought unparalleled candor about the domestic realities of working-class women to country songwriting, died at her home in Tennessee on Tuesday. She was 90.
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Country music icon Loretta Lynn died today. She 90 years old, and her family says she died peacefully in her sleep.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Loretta Lynn brought unparalleled candor about the domestic realities of women class-working to country songwriting. And she taught those who came after her to speak their minds, too.
SUMMERS: When a movie was made about her life, Lynn became a prominent pop culture figure, but she never compromised her down-home sensibilities. WNXP’s Jewly Hight has this appreciation.
JEWLY HIGHT, BYLINE: One of the biggest songs of Loretta Lynn’s career proudly recounted her hardscrabble background.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER”)
LORETTA LYNN: (Singing) Well, I was born a coal miner’s daughter in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler. We were poor, but we had love. That’s the one thing that Daddy made sure of. He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar.
HIGHT: Lynn never tired of telling stories of her upbringing in a remote coal mining community in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. In a 2000 NPR interview, she recalled how her parents, Melvin and Clara Webb, did whatever it took to feed their eight children, even if it meant accepting a relative’s gift of a stolen chicken.
LYNN: There was many times we went to bed hungry and wake up in the middle of the night, 3 o’clock in the morning. We’d smell chicken cooking. Mom would get us up and let us eat and go back to bed.
HIGHT: Loretta Webb was barely a teenager when she started a family of her own with a 21-year-old former soldier, Oliver Lynn, better known as Mooney or Doolittle. They wasted no time having the first four of their six children and migrated to Washington state. It was there that her husband heard her bedtime lullabies and pushed her to start performing publicly. In a 2010 interview with WHYY’s Fresh Air, Loretta Lynn insisted she wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
LYNN: I wouldn’t get out in front of people. I wouldn’t – you know, I was really bashful, and I wouldn’t – I would never sing in front of anybody.
HIGHT: Once her husband started scrounging up paying gigs for her, Loretta taught herself to write songs, says country music historian and journalist Robert Oermann.
ROBERT OERMANN: She got a copy of Country Song Roundup, and this is a magazine that has country lyrics printed in it along with stories about the stars. And she would read the country lyrics in the magazine, and she’d go, well, that’s nothing. I can do that, ’cause she could and had been.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “I’M A HONKY TONK GIRL”)
LYNN: (Singing) So turn that jukebox way up high, and fill my glass up while I cry. I’ve lost everything in this world, and now I’m a honky tonk girl.
HIGHT: Lynn and her husband drove around to radio stations. She would introduce herself to the DJs and try to charm them into spinning her record. The couple’s efforts begun to get her notice when they landed in Nashville in 1960. Artists like Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, who became Lynn’s mentor, were having a lot of success with the lush, pop-sweetened production style known as the Nashville sound. Lynn worked with Cline’s producer Owen Bradley but hung onto her unsoftened twang.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH (TO TAKE MY MAN)”)
LYNN: (Singing) It’ll be over my dead body, so get out while you can ’cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.
HIGHT: Country songs had often portrayed hardship from male perspectives, but Lynn wasn’t afraid to spell out the indignities she endured in her marriage or the double standards she saw other women facing when it came to divorce, pregnancy and birth control.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “THE PILL”)
LYNN: (Singing) There’s going to be some changes made right here on Nursery Hill. You’ve set this chicken your last time ’cause now I’ve got the pill.
HIGHT: Lynn found that Nashville wasn’t accustomed to that kind of frankness.
LYNN: I’ll tell you. When I come to Nashville, I didn’t really know that people did not say what they thought. I’ve always been a person to say what I think.
HIGHT: Fellow Eastern Kentucky songwriter Angaleena Presley was raised on her mother’s Loretta Lynn records and recognizes what they must have meant to women of earlier generations.
ANGALEENA PRESLEY: I’m positive that there probably were many, many women in that time, especially in the country, who thought, I’m not really allowed to say anything if my husband wants to drink. He works all day. He deserves to drink and come home and do what he wants. And I’ll clean the house and raise the kids. And she said, no, it’s not OK. And it’s OK for you to say it’s not OK.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “DON’T COME HOME A DRINKIN’”)
LYNN: (Singing) No, don’t come home a-drinkin’ (ph) with lovin’ (ph) on your mind. Just stay out there on the town, and see what you can find ’cause if you want that kind of love, well, you don’t need none of mine. So don’t come home a-drinkin’ with lovin’ on your mind.
PRESLEY: I feel like it contributed a lot to the feminist movement, especially in rural America, because I feel like she was the voice. Even though she never spoke out actively as a feminist, her songs certainly did.
HIGHT: Thirty-nine of those songs became Top 10 country hits on the Billboard charts. And in 1972, Loretta Lynn was the first woman named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
LYNN: The only – I’m real happy, but the only thing that I’m kind of sad about is my husband has gone hunting. He couldn’t make it back in to share my happiness with me.
LYNN: Thank you.
HIGHT: Their relationship was complicated, but they remained married until Doolittle’s death in 1996. And Loretta made sure her fans knew that her long-lasting musical partnership with Conway Twitty was all business. Lynn continued performing and recording into the new millennium, attracting younger audiences through her collaboration with rocker Jack White. But it was essential to Lynn’s enduring appeal that she never lost touch with her identity as a simultaneously modern and down-to-earth country woman. Journalist Robert Oermann saw her communicate that to crowds throughout her career.
OERMANN: This idea that, I might be up here on this stage singing this song, but I’m not better than you. I am you. And that’s kind of the message. You know, and I think that’s a really – that kind of humility is a really powerful and good thing. That message is so, so powerful.
HIGHT: And it always informed her songwriting.
LYNN: I like real life ’cause that’s what we’re doing today. And I think that’s why people bought my records – because they’re living in this world. And so am I. So I see what’s going on, and I grab it.
HIGHT: Loretta Lynn’s gutsiness comes through just as clearly today in the music she left behind. For NPR News, I’m Jewly Hight in Nashville.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “YOU’RE LOOKIN’ AT COUNTRY”)
LYNN: (Singing) Well, I like my loving done country-style. And this little girl would walk a country mile to find her a good old slow-talking country boy. I said a country boy.
Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter and Country Queen, Dies
Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter whose frank songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia pulled her out of poverty and made her a pillar of country music, has died. She was 90.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Lynn’s family said she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
“Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home in her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” the family said in a statement. They asked for privacy as they grieve and said a memorial will be announced later.
Lynn already had four children before launching her career in the early 1960s, and her songs reflected her pride in her rural Kentucky background.
As a songwriter, she crafted a persona of a defiantly tough woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers. The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote fearlessly about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce and birth control and sometimes got in trouble with radio programmers for material from which even rock performers once shied away.
Her biggest hits came in the 1960s and ’70s, including “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “The Pill,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Rated X” and “You’re Looking at Country.” She was known for appearing in floor-length, wide gowns with elaborate embroidery or rhinestones, many created by her longtime personal assistant and designer Tim Cobb.
Her honesty and unique place in country music was rewarded. She was the first woman ever named entertainer of the year at the genre’s two major awards shows, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.
“It was what I wanted to hear and what I knew other women wanted to hear, too,” Lynn told the AP in 2016. “I didn’t write for the men; I wrote for us women. And the men loved it, too.”
In 1969, she released her autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which helped her reach her widest audience yet.
“We were poor but we had love/That’s the one thing Daddy made sure of/He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar,” she sang.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” also the title of her 1976 book, was made into a 1980 movie of the same name. Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of Lynn won her an Academy Award and the film was also nominated for best picture.
Long after her commercial peak, Lynn won two Grammys in 2005 for her album “Van Lear Rose,” which featured 13 songs she wrote, including “Portland, Oregon” about a drunken one-night stand. “Van Lear Rose” was a collaboration with rocker Jack White, who produced the album and played the guitar parts.
Reba McEntire was among the stars who reacted to Lynn’s death, posting online about how the singer reminded her of her late mother. “Strong women, who loved their children and were fiercely loyal. Now they’re both in Heaven getting to visit and talk about how they were raised, how different country music is now from what it was when they were young. Sure makes me feel good that Mama went first so she could welcome Loretta into the hollers of heaven!”
Born Loretta Webb, the second of eight children, she claimed her birthplace was Butcher Holler, near the coal mining company town of Van Lear in the mountains of east Kentucky. There really wasn’t a Butcher Holler, however. She later told a reporter that she made up the name for the purposes of the song based on the names of the families that lived there.
Her daddy played the banjo, her mama played the guitar and she grew up on the songs of the Carter Family. Her younger sister, Crystal Gayle, is also a Grammy-winning country singer, scoring crossover hits with songs like “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and “Half the Way.” Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell also was a songwriter and producer of some of her albums.
“I was singing when I was born, I think,” she told the AP in 2016. “Daddy used to come out on the porch where I would be singing and rocking the babies to sleep. He’d say, ‘Loretta, shut that big mouth. People all over this holler can hear you.’ And I said, ‘Daddy, what difference does it make? They are all my cousins.’”
She wrote in her autobiography that she was 13 when she got married to Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, but the AP later discovered state records that showed she was 15. Tommy Lee Jones played Mooney Lynn in the biopic.
Her husband, whom she called “Doo” or “Doolittle,” urged her to sing professionally and helped promote her early career. With his help, she earned a recording contract with Decca Records, later MCA, and performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Lynn wrote her first hit single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” released in 1960.
She also teamed up with singer Conway Twitty to form one of the most popular duos in country music with hits such as “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” and “After the Fire is Gone,” which earned them a Grammy Award. Their duets, and her single records, were always mainstream country and not crossover or pop-tinged.
And when she first started singing at the Grand Ole Opry, country star Patsy Cline took Lynn under her wing and mentored her during her early career.
The Academy of Country Music chose her as the artist of the decade for the 1970s, and she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. She won four Grammy Awards, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
In “Fist City,” Lynn threatens a hair-pulling fistfight if another woman won’t stay away from her man: “I’m here to tell you, gal, to lay off of my man/If you don’t want to go to Fist City.” That strong-willed but traditional country woman reappears in other Lynn songs. In “The Pill,” a song about sex and birth control, Lynn sings about how she’s sick of being trapped at home to take care of babies: “The feelin’ good comes easy now/Since I’ve got the pill,” she sang.
She moved to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, in the 1990s, where she set up a ranch complete with a replica of her childhood home and a museum that is a popular roadside tourist stop. The dresses she was known for wearing are there, too.
Lynn knew that her songs were trailblazing, especially for country music, but she was just writing the truth that so many rural women like her experienced.
“I could see that other women was goin’ through the same thing, ‘cause I worked the clubs. I wasn’t the only one that was livin’ that life and I’m not the only one that’s gonna be livin’ today what I’m writin’,” she told The AP in 1995.
Even into her later years, Lynn never seemed to stop writing, scoring a multi-album deal in 2014 with Legacy Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. In 2017, she suffered a stroke that forced her to stop touring, but she released her 50th solo studio album, “Still Woman Enough” in 2021.
She and her husband were married nearly 50 years before he died in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest and Clara, and then twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.
Burning Truck Linked to Merced Family Kidnapping, FBI Joins Hunt
Detectives with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office say that a 2020 Ram truck found burning late Monday morning in Winton is linked to the kidnapping of a family.
In addition, according to the sheriff’s Facebook page, the state Department of Justice, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies have joined the effort “to bring this family home safely.”
The sheriff’s office asks that anyone with information about the kidnapping or the whereabouts of this family, call the tip line at (209) 385-7547. Tipsters can remain confidential.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke is asking for the public’s help in finding four missing people — including an 8-month-old girl — believed to have been kidnapped on Monday.
Sheriff’s detectives are searching Merced and surrounding areas for the baby, Aroohi Dheri; the child’s mother, Jasleen Kaur, 27; father Jasdeep Singh, 36; and uncle Amandeep Singh, 39.
In a news release, the sheriff’s office says the family members were taken against their will at gunpoint from a Merced business in the 800 block of South Highway 59.
No Contact or Ransom Demands
Warnke said the kidnapper has made no ransom demands or contact of any kind.
“We have no motivation behind it. We just know that they are gone,” Warnke said in a briefing posted on the department’s Facebook page.
The sheriff’s department released two images from surveillance footage of a possible suspect and asked for the public’s help in identifying the man.
He’s seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark shorts, and a light blue disposable face mask.
The sheriff said detectives believe the suspect destroyed unspecified evidence in an attempt to cover his tracks.
How to Relay Tips
“We believe the suspect is armed and considered dangerous and we’re asking the public to not approach the suspect or victims,” the sheriff’s office said.
Anyone with information on the victims or the suspect is asked to call 9-1-1. Information can also be submitted via email at MercedSheriffsOffice@Countyofmerced.com.
10 Essential Loretta Lynn Songs
The singer, who died Oct. 4, brought an honesty to her tunes, no matter how painful the topic.
Nobody told the truth better than Loretta Lynn, the country music titan who died Oct. 4 at 90. With more than 50 top 10 songs on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart — including 16 No. 1s — her seven-decade career was filled with autobiographical tunes that resonated with millions of people because of her candor and fearlessness.
Though an unabashed country music traditionalist, there was nothing old-fashioned concerning her approach to a lyric. Lynn wasn’t afraid to tackle subjects such as birth control, motherhood and infidelity in a way that had never been done before. Even when country radio banned her over such songs as 1975’s “The Pill,” she was unapologetic about speaking her truth, knowing that her fans could relate to her authentic stories.
Lynn first charted in 1960 with “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” which reached No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. She scored her first top 10 in 1962 with the aptly titled “Success.” Her first No. 1 came in 1966 with the feisty “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind.)”
The lyrical content in her material helped to make her an iconic performer in the 1970s, even landing her on the cover of Newsweek magazine — and becoming the subject of both a best-selling autobiography and an Oscar-winning movie that stands as one of the greatest music-related films of all time.
Here are 10 Loretta Lynn song performances that helped to define — and shape — the legend.
“Blue Kentucky Girl” (1965)
While the majority of classic Loretta Lynn songs flowed from her own pen, this aching song of loneliness – from her 1964 album Songs From My Heart — features the songwriting credit of Johnny Mullins. Fifteen years later, Emmylou Harris lovingly tipped her hat to Lynn with a faithful hit cover of this timeless tune.
“You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man)” (1966)
This song of warning to another woman who had designs on the singer’s man — inspired by a real-life incident — has become one of the most covered of Lynn’s songs over the years. The Grateful Dead performed it in concert during the early 1970s, and Martina McBride paid homage to Lynn with a cover on her 2005 album Timeless. But, perhaps the most interesting performance of this song goes to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who recorded it as an extra for the 2005 film Be Cool.
“Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” (1967)
The first of Loretta Lynn’s songs to top the Billboard country charts came with this feisty offering about a woman who was tired of her husband wanting to get romantic when he was intoxicated. It was the first of the singer’s songs to show the take-no-prisoners mentality that she became so famous for with her material. Ironically, the song peaked at the top during Valentine’s week of 1967.
“Fist City” (1968)
Lynn had her claws out and her boxing gloves on as she directed this tune to a woman her man is fooling around with. She doesn’t dispute her man’s cheating (“I’m not a sayin’ my baby’s a saint/ ‘Cause he ain’t/ And that he won’t cat around with a kitty”), but she’s reserving her ire for the “trash” coming after her husband. Though the threat to “lay off my man if you don’t want to go to Fist City” probably wouldn’t fly today, she certainly makes her point that it’s hand’s off or there’s going to be trouble.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970)
On Oct. 1, 1969, Loretta Lynn walked into the recording studio to begin work on a song that was far different than the type of material she had become known for in the latter part of the decade. The song had none of the sassy spirit and fire that had been a part of such classics as “Fist City.” It was her story — about growing up poor in the mountains of Kentucky. This classic composition became not only her signature song, but also the name of her best-selling 1976 book, and the 1980 film that earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar for playing Lynn.
“You’re Lookin’ at Country” (1971)
The singer was inspired to write this 1971 top 10 hit while traveling around the United States on tour. Inspired by the natural beauty of the country, this track became a Loretta Lynn crowd favorite that was featured — among many of her hits — in the 1980 biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter.
“One’s On the Way” (1971)
If you have copies of this Decca single with the title printed as “Here In Topeka,” chances are pretty good that you have a collector’s item. The label mistakenly pressed the first edition of this Loretta Lynn song before realizing their error. Lyrically, the song — about a woman comparing her ordinary lifestyle to the jet-setters of the day, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, and Jackie Kennedy — touched a nerve with women around the country who were going through the same experience. Though the song seemed straight out of Lynn’s life, it was actually written by someone else: legendary author Shel Silverstein.
“Love Is the Foundation” (1973)
There aren’t that many straight-ahead declarations of love in the Loretta Lynn song catalog, but the singer aimed directly for the heart on this 1973 song, from the pen of William Cody Hall. In 1994, Lynn re-visited the tune, covering it herself on her album Making More Memories.
“The Pill” (1975)
For as much as Loretta Lynn is known as one of country music’s most traditional-minded legends, this 1975 single was far from the norm: a song about birth control. The singer was very frank and concise in her attempt to go where no woman in the format had gone before. Radio wasn’t too keen on the unorthodox nature of the song, as several stations banned it from their playlist. Needless to say, it didn’t work, as the song became one of her best remembered recordings.
“Miss Being Mrs.”(2004)
Lynn’s album Van Lear Rose was a testament to the never-ending creative spirit of the singer. Then in her early 70s, the singer teamed up with her producer Jack White to record an album full of longing and lust. On this track from the Grammy-winning set, she laments sleeping alone in a way that is more bittersweet than outright sad. Presumably, she’s singing about being widowed — having lost her husband of 48 years in 1996 — but any divorcee could also recognize the poignancy of the moment, when “I took off my wedding band/ And put it on my right hand.”