The First Lady of Country Music
“When I was 14, I lived like a 35 year-old, and when I was 35, I lived like a 14 year-old.” Loretta Lynn
In the music industry since the early 1960s, Country music legend Loretta Lynn, known by the nicknames “The First Lady of Country Music” and “Country Music's First Girl Singer,” has attained 16 No. 1 country hits during the path of her career, as both a solo and duet performer. Among them are “Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind),” “Fist City,” “Woman of the World,” “Coal Miner's Daughter,” “Lead Me On,” “One's on the Way,” “Love Is the Foundation,” “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” “As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone,” “Trouble In Paradise,” “Feelins,” “Somebody, Somewhere,” “She's Got You” and “Out of My Head and Back In My Bed.” One of the leading country female vocalists during the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn suffered a setback during the 1980s, but enjoyed some success in 1993 following the release of the “Honky Tonk Angels” album, a collaboration with legends Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. She spent the rest of the decade outside the limelight taking care of her sick husband, who died in 1996. A first time Grammy winner for “After the Fire Is Gone” (1971), a duet sang with Conway Twitty, Lynn earned her next two Grammy Awards over three decades later with her comeback album, “Van Lear Rose” (2004), produced by Jack White. It followed the 2000 album “Still Country,” her first album since 1988 comprising of original solo material.
For her dedication to country music, Lynn, who was once named VH1's “Greatest Women of Rock N Roll,” was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in March 2008. In addition to three Grammy Awards, she has also netted Academy of Country Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards, Music City News Country Awards and American Music Awards. In 2005, she was handed the Johnny Cash Visionary Award.
As an author, Lynn has published two memoirs and a cook book. Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, “Coal Miner's Daughter,” was transformed into a blockbuster movie in 1980 starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.
As for her personal life, Lynn was married to husband Oliver Vanetta Lynn for nearly fifty years. They couple shared six children together, including twin actresses Peggy and Patsy Lynn (born on August 6, 1964). Part of a big family with eight kids, Lynn's youngest sister is country singer Crystal Gayle (born on January 9, 1951).
Lynn supported George W. Bush during his presidential election in 2000.
Childhood and Family:
Named after screen legend Loretta Young, Loretta Webb was born on April 14, 1935, in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Growing up in a modest mining community in the section of Van Lear, her father, Melvin “Ted” Webb, tirelessly worked as a coal miner, a farmer and a storekeeper in order to feed his eight children. Loretta is part Scots-Irish and Cherokee and as a child, she frequently sang in churches and at local concerts.
A few months before her 14th birthday, Loretta was married to Oliver Vanetta Lynn, also known as “Doolittle,” “Doo,” or “Mooney,” on January 10, 1948, and they soon moved to the work community Custer, in Washington. Loretta had four out of six children before she turned 18, and despite her busy days taking care of her family, she still found time to pursue her musical interest. She even taught herself how to play the guitar, which was given to her by her husband when she was 18 years old. At age 29, Loretta became a grandmother for the first time.
On August 22, 1996, Loretta's husband died. Although they had been married a long time, their marriage was reportedly sometimes rough. According to her autobiography, “Still Woman Enough” (2002), and a CBS News interview that same year, her husband regularly cheated on her and once left her while she was giving birth. They also often fought.
Van Lear Rose
A product of a blue-collar family in the mining community of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, Loretta Lynn left her humble upbringing for a logging community in Custer, Washington, shortly after her marriage to Oliver Lynn. A long-time music fan, she continued to pursue her interest even after she became a full-time mother and performed her own songs in local clubs with her brother's band. In her spare time, with the support of her husband, she learned to play the guitar.
Lynn's first break arrived when she participated in a televised talent contest hosted by Buck Owens in Tacoma in 1959. She caught the attention of Norm Burley, who soon signed her for his growing label, Zero Records. The following year, Lynn made her debut as a recording artist with the release of her first single, “I'm a Honky Tonk Girl,” which went on to become a Top 14 country hit. To promote the single, Lynn and her husband hit the road and visited every country radio station they found to give the single a push. They also sent thousands of copies of the song to radio stations around the country. Eventually, the song put Lynn on the radar of the well-known country duo The Wilburn Brothers, who then recruited her to tour with them.
Thanks to the help of The Wilburns, Lynn signed a recording deal with Decca Records in Nashville and soon found herself working with noted producer Owen Bradley, who at the time also worked with Bill Anderson, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline and Webb Pierce. Her first single with Decca, “Success,” was released in 1962 and soared to No. 6. Her first full-length album, “Loretta Lynn Sings,” followed the following year and was produced under Zero Records. It reached No. 2 on the country album charts.
Lynn went on to produce Top 10 country hits with the songs “Wine, Women, and Song,” “Before I'm Over You” (both 1964), “Blue Kentucky Girl,” “Happy Birthday” and “The Home You're Tearing Down” (all 1965). Her rising career was further established the following years when she dominated country charts with the albums “You Ain't Woman Enough” (1966, No. 1), “I Like 'Em Country” (1966, No. 2), “Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)” (1967, No. 1), “Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb Singin' Again (1967, No. 1) and “Singin' With Feelin'” (1967, No. 3). The title song “Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)” became Lynn's first No. 1 hit and one of her most popular songs. She had her second No. 1 hit with “Fist City” (1968), taken from a 1968 album of the same name which was also as successful as the single, and the third with “Woman of the World” (1968). By the late 1960s, Lynn had picked up a Country Music Association award for Female Vocalist of the Year (1967) and her first three Music City News Country Awards for Female Artist of the Year (1967, 1968 and 1969).
Previously a partner of Ernest Tubb, with whom she made three duet albums during the 1960s, most notably the No. 1 hit “We Put Our Heads Together” (1969), Lynn found even bigger success with her new collaborator, Conway Twitty. Starting out with the album “We Only Make Believe” (1970), which reached No. 3 on the country chart and No. 78 on the USA Top 200, the two enjoyed their first No. 1 hit together with “After the Fire Is Gone,” a song that brought Lynn her first Grammy in 1971 in the category of Best Country Performance by Duo w/Vocals. The song also won an Academy of Country Music for Top Vocal Duet and a Music City News Country for Vocal Duet of the Year. The duo also scored four subsequent No. 1 hits with “Lead Me On” (1972), “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” (1973), “As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone” (1973) and “Feelins” (1975). The duo won three consecutive Country Music Association awards for Vocal Duo of the Year from 1972 to 1974.
Meanwhile, on her own, Lynn gained attention for her single “Coal Miner's Daughter” (1970), an autobiographical song that peaked at No. 1 on the Country charts and No. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100. An album of the same name was also released in 1970. Other remarkable singles included “You're Lookin' at Country” (1971), the Shel Silverstein-written “One's on the Way” (1971), “Rated X” (1972), “Love Is the Foundation” (1972), “Trouble In Paradise” (1974) and “The Pill” (1975).
1976 saw Lynn publish her autobiography, “Coal Miner's Daughter.” The book was adapted into a movie four years later with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones playing the leads and Michael Apted directing. The “Coal Miner's Daughter” film was a success with audiences and critics alike and earned seven Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe Awards, including one for Best Motion Picture-Musical/Comedy.
Lynn continued her fruitful collaboration with Conway Twitty from 1976 to 1981 in such Top 10 singles as “The Letter” (1976), “I Can't Love You Enough” (1977), “From Seven Till Ten/You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” (1978), “You Know Just What I'd Do/Sadness of It All” (1979), “It's True Love” (1980) and “Lovin' What Your Lovin' Does to Me” (1981). The duo added three Academy of Country Music awards for Top Vocal Duet (1974-1976), three American Music awards for Favorite Country Band, Duo, or Group (1975, 1976, 1978) and eight Music City News Country for Vocal Duet of the Year (1972-1974, 1976-1978, 1980, 1981) to their impressive resumes.
As a soloist, Lynn flourished with such chart-topper hits as “Somebody, Somewhere” (1976), “She's Got You” (1977), a cover of Patsy Cline's 1962 hit, “Out of My Head and Back In My Bed” (1977) and several Top 10 singles, including “I've Got a Picture of Us On My Mind” (1979). For her effort, she received numerous honors like American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards and Country Music Association Awards. From 1967 to 1980, she regularly netted a Music City News for Country Female Artist of the Year, except in 1975 and 1979, and was named the Living Legend in 1986.
By the 1980s, the country star was no longer a dominant presence on the charts. The songs “Lyin', Cheatin', Women Chasin', Honky Tonkin', Whiskey Drinkin' You” (1983), “Wouldn't It Be Great” (1985), “Just a Woman” (1986) and “Who Was That Stranger” (1988) failed to become Top 40 Country hits.
After a solo album, “Who Was That Stranger,” and a duet album with Twitty, “Making Believe” (both 1988), Lynn did not resurface with a new material until 1993 when she launched “Honky Tonk Angels,” a collaboration album with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. Released under Columbia Records, the gold album reached No. 6 on Billboard's country LP chart and No. 42 on the Billboard 200. However, Lynn was forced to take a hiatus to care for her husband when his health floundered in the 1990s. He passed away in 1996 and Lynn was honored with a Grammy for the Hall of Fame Award the following year.
Four years after the death of her husband, Lynn launched the album “Still Country” in 2000. The single “Country In My Genes” peaked at No. 72 on the country chart. She published a second book called “Still Woman Enough: A Memoir” in 2002.
At age 69, Lynn experienced a renaissance in her career with the 2004 album “Van Lear Rose,” which was produced and arranged by rocker Jack White of the White Stripes. Hailed as one of Lynn's best records, the album rocketed to No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and reached No. 24 on the Billboard 200. It brought Lynn two Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration w/ Vocals. Also in 2004, Lynn released a cook book titled “You're Cookin' It Country: My Favorite Recipes and Memories.”
In March 2008, Lynn performed at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
CMT: Johnny Cash Visionary Award, 2005
Grammy: Best Country Album for Van Lear Rose, 2004
Grammy: Best Country Collaboration w/ Vocals (w/ Jack White), 2004
Grammy: Hall of Fame Awards, 1997
Music City News Country: Living Legend Award, 1986
American Music: Favorite Country Band, Duo, or Group (w/Conway Twitty) and Favorite Female Artist, 1978
American Music: Favorite Country Band, Duo, or Group (w/Conway Twitty) and Favorite Female Country Artist, 1977
Academy of Country Music: Top Vocal Duet, 1976
Music City News Country: Album of the Year, 1976
American Music: Favorite Country Band, Duo, or Group (w/Conway Twitty), 1975
Academy of Country Music: Top Vocal Duet (w/Conway Twitty), Top Female Vocalist, Entertainer of the Year and Top Album of the Year, 1975
Country Music Association: Vocal Duo of the Year (w/Conway Twitty), 1974
Academy of Country Music: Top Female Vocalist and Top Vocal Duet (w/Conway Twitty), 1974
Country Music Association: Vocal Duo of the Year (w/Conway Twitty) and Female Vocalist of the Year, 1973
Music City News Country: Vocal Duet of the Year (w/Conway Twitty), 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981
Country Music Association: Entertainer of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year and Vocal Duo of the Year (w/Conway Twitty), 1972
Grammy: Best Country Performance by Duo w/Vocals, “After the Fire Is Gone” (w/Conway Twitty), 1971
Academy of Country Music: Top Vocal Duet, “After the Fire Is Gone” (w/Conway Twitty), 1971
Music City News Country: Vocal Duet of the Year, “After the Fire Is Gone” (w/Conway Twitty), 1971
Academy of Country Music: Top Female Vocalist, 1971, 1973
Music City News Country: Female Artist of the Year, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980
Country Music Association: Female Vocalist of the Year, 1967, 1973