Loretta Lynn Webb; born April 14, 1932
an American country music singer songwriter with multiple gold albums in a career spanning 60 years. She is famous for hits such as “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)“, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)“, “One’s on the Way“, “Fist City” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter“.
Lynn 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 an individual artist. She is the most awarded female country recording artist and the only female ACM Artist of the Decade (1970s). Lynn has scored 24 No. 1 hit singles and 11 number one albums. Lynn continues to tour, appear at the Grand Ole Opry and release new albums.
Hailing from the coal-mining hills of Kentucky, Loretta, now 87, is a true rags to riches story. She married her husband Doolittle “Mooney” Lynn at a very young age, and together they peddled her music all around the country while also raising their six kids. Eventually (and with the help of friends like Patsy Cline) she became one of the boldest voices in the industry, and remains so today.
On January 10, 1948, 15-year-old Loretta Webb married Oliver Vanetta “Doolittle” Lynn (August 27, 1926 – August 22, 1996), better known as “Doolittle”, “Doo”, or “Mooney”. They had met only a month earlier. The Lynns left Kentucky and moved to the logging community of Custer, Washington, when Loretta was seven months pregnant with the first of their six children. The happiness and heartache of her early years of marriage would help to inspire Lynn’s songwriting. In 1953, Doolittle bought her $ 17, guitar. She taught herself to play the instrument, and over the following three years, she worked to improve her guitar playing. With Doolittle’s encouragement, she 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. She 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. In 1967, she had the first of 16 No. 1 hits, out of 70 charted songs as a solo artist and a duet partner.
Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same title in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Loretta Lynn.
Loretta 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. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. Loretta has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since joining on September 25, 1962. Her debut 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,
1960–1966: Early country success began singing in local clubs in the late 1950s. She later formed her own band, the Trailblazers, which included her brother Jay Lee Webb. Loretta won a wristwatch in a televised talent contest in Tacoma, Washington, hosted by Buck Owens.
The Lynns toured the country to promote the release to country stations, When the Lynns reached Nashville, the song was a hit, climbing to No. 14 on Billboard’s Country and Western chart, and Lynn began cutting demo records for the Wilburn Brothers Publishing Company. Through the Wilburns, she secured a contract with Decca Records. 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 No. 1 female recording artist in country music. Her contract with the Wilburn Brothers gave them the publishing rights to her material. She unsuccessfully fought the Wilburn Brothers for 30 years to regain the publishing rights to her songs after ending her business relationship with them. Lynn stopped writing music in the 1970s because of the contracts. Lynn joined The Grand Ole Opry on September 25, 1962.
Loretta has credited Patsy Cline as her mentor and best friend during her early years in music. In 2010, when interviewed for biography of Tammy Wynette, Loretta said having best friends in Patsy and Tammy during different times: “Best friends are like husbands. You only need one at a time.”
Loretta released her first Decca single, “Success,” in 1962, and it went straight to No. 6, beginning a string of top 10 singles that would run throughout the 1970s. Lynn began to regularly hit the Top 10 after 1964 with songs such as “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 first self-penned song to crack the Top 10, 1966’s “Dear Uncle Sam“, was among the very first recordings to recount the human costs of the Vietnam War. Her 1966 hit “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” made Lynn the first country female recording artist to write 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)“, which 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 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, including 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)“. Her 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 autobiographical hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter“, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1970. The song became her first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 83.
In 1971, Lynn began a professional partnership with Conway Twitty. As a duo, Lynn and Twitty had five consecutive No. 1 hits between 1971 and 1975, including “After the Fire Is Gone” (1971), which 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). 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 No. 1 singles, they had seven other Top 10 hits between 1976 and 1981.
Loretta Lynn touring in 1975
As a solo artist, Lynn continued her success in 1971, achieving her fifth No. 1 solo hit, “One’s on the Way“, She also charted with “I Wanna Be Free“, “You’re Lookin’ at Country” and in 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 to be nominated and win Entertainer of the Year 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, singer Patsy Cline, who 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 hits. “She’s Got You”, which went to No. 1 by Cline in 1962 went to No. 1 again that year by Lynn. “Why Can’t He Be You” peaked at No. 7. Lynn had her last No. 1 hit in 1978 with “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed“.
Devoted to her fans, Lynn told the editor of Salisbury, Maryland’s newspaper the reason she signed hundreds of autographs “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.” In 1979, she became the spokesperson for Procter & Gamble’s Crisco Oil. 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.
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. The film starred Sissy Spacek as Loretta and Tommy Lee Jones as her husband, Dolittle “Mooney” Lynn. The film received seven Academy Awards“. Lynn’s last Top 10 record as a soloist was 1982’s “I Lie“, but her releases continued to chart until the end of the decade.
One of her last solo releases was “Heart Don’t Do This to Me” (1985), which reached No. 19, her last Top 20 hit. 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 country stars Kitty Wells and Brenda Lee, “Honky Tonk Angels Medley”. The album was certified 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
Loretta 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 No. 6 on the Billboard Country charts and No. 42 on the Billboard Pop charts.
In 1995, Loretta was presented with the Pioneer Award at the 30th Academy of Country Music Awards. In 1996, Loretta’s husband, Oliver Vanetta “Doolittle” Lynn, died five days short of his 70th birthday.
In 2000, Loretta 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 more than 10 years from the album, “Country in My Genes.” The single charted on the Billboard Country singles chart and made Lynn the first woman in country music to chart singles in five decades.
In 2002, Loretta published her second autobiography, Still Woman Enough, and it became her second New York Times Best Seller, peaking in the top 10. In 2004, she published a cookbook, You’re Cookin’ It Country.
2004–present: Late career resurgence
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 spanning 50 years. The CD produced a Top 10 music video hit on GAC of the 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 2012, Lynn published her third autobiography, Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics. She contributed “Take Your Gun and Go, John” to Divided & United: Songs of the Civil War, released on November 5, 2013.
Lynn’s Christmas album White Christmas Blue was released in October 2016. In December of the same year, Full Circle was nominated for Country Album of the Year for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.
Lynn’s album Wouldn’t It Be Great, the third album of her five-album deal with Legacy Recordings, was released in September 2018 after being delayed by health issues. Her health prompted Lynn to cancel all 2017 scheduled tour dates] Lynn was named Artist of a Lifetime by CMT in 2018.
On October 19, 2019, Lifetime aired the highly anticipated movie Patsy & Loretta which highlighted the friendship of Lynn and Patsy Cline. Lynn attended the Nashville release of the film.
Children and grandchildren
Loretta and Doolittle “Mooney” Lynn had six children together:
- Betty Sue Lynn (November 26, 1948 – July 29, 2013)
- Jack Benny Lynn, (December 7, 1949 – July 22, 1984)
- Clara Marie “Cissie” Lynn (born April 7, 1952)
- Ernest Ray “Ernie” Lynn (born May 27, 1954)
- Peggy Jean and Patsy Eileen Lynn (born August 6, 1964; twin daughters named for Lynn’s sister, Peggy Sue Wright, and her friend, Patsy Cline.)
Lynn’s 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. In 2013, Loretta’s daughter, Betty Sue, died at age 64 of emphysema near Loretta’s ranch in Hurricane Mills. Two years after her twins Peggy and Patsy were born, Lynn became a grandmother at age 34.
Lynn was married for almost 50 years until her husband died at age 69 in 1996. In her 2002 autobiography Still Woman Enough and in an interview with CBS News the same year, she recounted how her husband cheated on her regularly and once left her while she was giving birth. Lynn and her husband fought frequently, but she said that “he never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice.” Loretta has said that her marriage was “one of the hardest love stories.” In one of her autobiographies, she recalled:
“I married Doo, when I was but a child, and he was my life from that day on. 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, 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 effected our marriage all the way through.”
In the mid-1970s, Lynn and her husband built a house in Teacapán, Mexico which they owned for a couple of decades. Lynn and her husband also bought a cabin in Canada.
In May 2017, Lynn had a stroke at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. She was taken to a Nashville hospital and subsequently had to cancel all of her upcoming tour dates. The release of her new album Wouldn’t It Be Great was delayed until 2018. According to her website, she is expected to make a full recovery.On January 1, 2018, Lynn fell and broke her hip.
Loretta Lynn celebrated her 88th. birthday on April 14, 2020.