Loretta Lynn, First Lady of Country Music, Dies at 90
Loretta Lynn, one of country music's most indelible icons, died Tuesday at her Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, home. She was 90.
Lynn's family confirmed the passing of their "precious mom" with a statement to "Extra" that reassured fans she had "passed peacefully in her sleep."
Lynn was a rare musician whose own life story powered her to superstardom in tandem with her unforgettable music. Her poverty-stricken start in Kentucky's coal country led to marriage at 15, motherhood at 16, and a tough personal life that made her 1976 autobiography "Coal Miner's Daughter" a best-selling book.
The book was adapted into a film of the same title in 1980 that was among the year's Top 10-grossing movies. It received seven Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture, and its star, Sissy Spacek, took home the Oscar as Best Actress.
Lynn was born on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Hollow (pronounced "Holler" by residents), Kentucky, the second of eight children, including fellow country singer Crystal Gayle, now 71.
With the encouragement of her husband, Doolittle Lynn, she taught herself to play the guitar and started a band called Loretta and the Trailblazers, playing locally. She made her first recording in 1960: "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." It was a Top 15 country hit and led to her Grand Ole Opry debut.
Around this time, Lynn became close friends with one of her idols, singer Patsy Cline. Their friendship was touchingly portrayed in "Coal Miner's Daughter," including the tragedy of Cline's death at 30 in a 1963 plane crash. She also published a memoir of their friendship in 2020, "Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust."
Her personal life was tumultuous, including a mental breakdown and a husband she stuck with for 49 years until his death, in spite of his cheating — her 1966 hit "You Ain't Woman Enough (to Take My Man)" was about her confrontation with one of her husband's mistresses — and alcoholism.
But it was Lynn's special talent to spin her misfortunes into creative gold that made her into a relatable and different kind of heroine to many.
After several years as a staple of the Nashville scene and numerous country hits that addressed social issues like infidelity, she achieved her first country number-one smash with "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (with Lovin' on Your Mind)" in 1966. She had two more — "Fist City" (1968) and "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)" (1969) — before the decade was over.
Lynn's first cross-over hit was her signature tune "Coal Miner's Daughter" in 1970, a song that would become ubiquitous in the culture following the success of the film.
It was also another of her country chart-toppers, which also included "One's on the Way" (1971), "Rated 'X'" (1972), "Love Is the Foundation" (1973), "Trouble in Paradise" (1974), "Somebody Somewhere (Don't Know What He's Missin' Tonight)" (1976), "She's Got You" (1977), and "Out of My Head and Back in My Bed" (1977).
"The Pill," recorded in 1972 and finally released in 1975, was a comic take on birth control that was hugely controversial at the time — leading to some bans from country stations. Nonetheless, it became one of her most famous singles, and her biggest Billboard Hot 100 pop hit, at #70.
Lynn's influence on her genre was undeniable, and she was honored innumerable times along the way, making her the most awarded woman in country music. Nominated 18 times for Grammys, she won three. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Lynn toured for nearly 60 years, but ended life on the road after a 2017 stroke and a bad fall in 2018 that led to a broken hip.
Lynn was preceded in death by her husband in 1996, and by two of her children.
She is survived by her sister Crystal Gayle, three daughters, a son, 21 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren.