For nearly half a century, the cultural impact of Loretta Lynn is insurmountable. The country music icon and one of the most gifted and insightful artists of the modern age turns 87 today (April 14).
Ever since she broke out with 1960’s “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Lynn’s music has inspired audiences around the world. In 1976 her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, became a New York Times bestseller, which went on to inspire the 1980 biographical film of the same title starring Oscar winner Sissy Spacek.
By 1982, Lynn could count 55 Top 10 hits and 27 No. 1s to her credit, including “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’,” “Fist City” and “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill.” She is a Kennedy Center honoree, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement honoree and a member of the Country Music and Songwriters Halls of Fame.
But the artists who have had the honor of getting to know her and work with her will always love her for who she is at her core.
“The reason I’m standing here is because of this woman,” Miranda Lambert told CMT Hot 20 Countdown in 2014. “I got to be a country music singer, and it’s a lot because of this woman and everything that she did.”
In August 2017 at Lynn’s Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit launch for “Blue Kentucky Girl,” Kacey Musgraves described the legendary singer as “intelligent, irreverently ladylike, witty, authentic, beautiful, strong and brave.”
“I can say without a doubt I would not be living the musical life as I know it without her example to follow,” she said. “When I think about the comments, reactions and situations that I’ve been exposed to as a female artist in modern day country music, I can only begin to imagine the odyssey that she put on herself.”
Keith Urban accompanied Lynn to the 2005 CMT Music Awards when she was presented CMT’s Johnny Cash Visionary Award.
“We unfortunately missed most of the show because I was picking her brain about everything, about touring,” he recalled backstage at the show. “She is full of stories. It’s a surreal thing and quite overwhelming.”
Grammy winner, John Carter Cash, and the only son of the late Johnny and June Carter Cash, produced Lynn’s 2016 Full Circle and the forthcoming Wouldn’t It Be Great. The release of the latter album was postponed following her stroke in May 2017. Co-producing with her daughter, Patsy, Cash has tracked more material by Lynn than any other artist he has ever recorded. “I think it’s over 106 songs of hers,” Cash tells CMT.com “And it’s because we’re like family.”
“It’s like being with my mother,” Cash adds. “They’re cut from the same mold because were raised no more than 100 miles apart from each other. Loretta’s just like the people that are still up in the area where my mother was born and raised. She’s right around same age as my mother and my father would be today. Her sense of humor is like my mom’s.
“They’re a lot alike. They really are. Loretta’s brilliant. She’s a bright light. And there’s so much love in her for everyone and whit, charm and sarcasm. And she’s not afraid to say what she believes; whether you like it or not.”
Thank goodness for it. Happy birthday, Loretta. May you have many happy years.
Enjoy a few of our favorite Loretta Lynn performances:
“You Ain’t Woman Enough”
“Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”
Songwriters: Lynn and Peggy Sue Wills
“Coal Miner’s Daughter”
“Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” with Conway Twitty
Songwriters: Becki Bluefield and Jim Owen
Songwriters: Lorene Allen, Don McHan and T. D. Bayless
“Lay Me Down” with Willie Nelson
Songwriters: Mark Marchetti
“Wine Women and Song”
Songwriters: Betty Sue Perry
“She’s Got You”
Songwriters: Hank Cochran
This Cochran original was originally recorded by Lynn’s friend and ally, the late Patsy Cline, on Cline’s Sentimentally Yours. Lynn’s version went No. 1 in 1977 15 years after Cline’s original did in 1962.