One of the true living legends of country music celebrates an impressive birthday today: Loretta Lynn, the country queen whose music and life story has inspired generations of artists, is now 89!
After decades of performing, Lynn is still going strong, and just recently put out a new album, the 50th of her storied career.
Early life and marriage
Lynn was born April 14, 1932 in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, the second oldest of eight children. Her father was a coal miner, who died of black lung disease at 52.
She married her first husband Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn when she was just 15 years old and he was 21. She had four children all before the age of 20, and worked to help support her family.
Their complicated marriage is one of the most famous in music: “Doo was a good man and a hard worker,” Lynn later wrote in her 2002 memoir Still Woman Enough “But he was an alcoholic, and it affected our marriage all the way through.”
While her early life was often tough, and would inspire much of her later songwriting, she began to pursue a career in music with her husband’s support, teaching herself guitar and playing at local venues.
In 1960, she recorded her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.”
Success as a country artist
That year also saw her first performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Mentors in the Nashville country music scene, most notably Patsy Cline, helped her career take off.
Sadly, Cline died in a plane crash in 1963, a tragedy that devastated her: “I met her, and it was just like she was my sister,” Lynn told the New York Post. “It was like we’d been together forever.”
Lynn’s 1962 song “Success” became her first Top 10 hit on the country charts, and her first album Loretta Lynn Sings reached #2 on the country album chart.
She had a string of successful songs throughout the 1960s, which often dealt with topics considered taboo in country music at the time. Her song “Dear Uncle Sam” was critical of the Vietnam War, and “The Pill” tackled the controversial topic of birth control.
These songs were often banned from the radio, but it didn’t stop Lynn from becoming one of the major female stars of country music.
‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’
Lynn then recorded some of her most famous songs, including “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind),” which reached #1 on the charts.
But it was her autobiographical 1970 hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter” that remains her signature song.
The song also lent its title to her bestselling 1976 autobiography, which made Lynn the first country artist to top the New York Times Best Seller list, and was adapted into a hit film in 1980.
The film brought Lynn’s life story to a wide audience, and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, winning Sissy Spacek the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Lynn.
Still going strong
After 60 years of recording music, Lynn is still going strong and is a certified country legend.
She has continued to record music, collaborating with fellow country artists like Willie Nelson to more contemporary artists like Jack White.
She has one three Grammy Awards and was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. In received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2013.
Lynn suffered a stroke in 2018 and broke her hip in 2018, but has bounced back to record more music. Still, she’s often been the subject of rumors about her declining health: a report in 2019 said she was in a nursing home and near-death, which she happily disputed.
“Well, through the years they’ve said I’m broke, homeless, cheating, drinking, gone crazy, terminally ill, and even dead!” she wrote on Facebook. “Poor things can’t ever get it right.”
In fact, just weeks before celebrating her 89th birthday, Lynn released her milestone 50th studio album.
Still Woman Enough, a mixture of classic songs and new material, was released on March 19, to positive reviews. It peaked at #9 on the US country albums chart.
The album features vocal performances by fellow country stars like Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.
Many people in the country music community wished Loretta a happy 89th birthday:
Happy birthday to the legendary Loretta Lynn! 89 and still going strong!
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