Loretta Lynn, country music icon, has died at 90

Loretta Lynn, Country Music's Icon, 'Coal Miner's Daughter', Has Died at 90

Loretta Lynn, country music icon, has died at 90
Loretta Lynn performs on stag, 1972.
Pic. Credits: Getty Images

Loretta Lynn, the country music icon who brought unparalleled candour about the domestic realities of working-class women to country songwriting – and taught those who followed her to follow in her footsteps – died today at her home in Tennessee. She was ninety years old.

"Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully in her sleep this morning at home at her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills," her family said in a statement.

"Loretta Lynn's life story is unlike any other, yet she drew from it a body of work that resonates with people who may never truly understand her bleak and remote childhood." her hardscrabble early days, or her adventures as a famous and beloved celebrity," Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. "In a music business that is often concerned with aspiration and fantasy, Loretta insisted on sharing her own brash and brave truth."

Loretta Webb was raised in a remote coal mining community in eastern Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. "Coal Miner's Daughter," one of her most popular songs, proudly recounted her early life.

Lynn, who was barely a teenager, started a family of her own with 21-year-old former soldier Oliver Lynn, better known as "Mooney" or "Doolittle."They moved to Washington state after having the first four of their six children.Her husband heared her bedtime lullabies and encouraged her to start performing publicly. She insisted in a 2010 interview with Fresh Air that she would not have done it otherwise: "I would never walk out in front of people. I was extremely shy and would never have sang in front of anyone."

Screenshot from a video shows Loretta Lynn singing "Coal Miner's Daughter" at Lynn's 87th

Lynn taught herself to write songs after her husband began scrounging up paying gigs for her, according to country music historian and journalist Robert Oermann.

"She got a copy of Country Song Roundup," Oermann says – a magazine that printed country lyrics and stories about the musicians. "She would read the country lyrics in the magazine, and she'd go, 'Well that's nothing. I can do that.' And she could, and had been."

Lynn and her husband drove around to radio stations, where she would approach the DJs and try to convince them to play her record. When the couple landed in Nashville in 1960, their efforts had begun to get Lynn noticed. Artists like Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline — who became Lynn's mentor — were having a lot of success with the Nashville Sound, a lush, pop-sweetened production style. Lynn worked with Cline's producer, Owen Bradley, but maintained her raw twang.

Loretta Lynn: Coal miner's daughter, Listen Here: 

Country songs had often portrayed hardship from male perspectives, but Lynn wasn't afraid to spell out the indignities endured in her marriage, or the double standards she saw other women facing when it came to divorce, pregnancy and birth control. She found that Nashville wasn't accustomed to that kind of frankness. 

Lynn was the first woman to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1972. In 1988, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2008, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In addition, she received Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Despite their complicated relationship, Lynn and Doolittle remained married until his death in 1996. (Lynn also made it clear to fans that her long-running musical collaboration with Conway Twitty was all business.) Lynn continued to perform and record well into the new millennium, attracting younger fans through her work with Jack White.

She never lost touch with her identity as a modern and down-to-earth country woman who could communicate that to audiences throughout her career.


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