Today, the world has a little less sparkle to it. Tuesday saw the passing of Loretta Lynn, the sequined Queen of the Sexual Revolution of country music. She was 90 years old. The cause of death wasn’t revealed.
The family of Loretta Lynn released a statement to EW that read, “Our lovely mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home in her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills.” A memorial service for Lynn will be announced at a later time, and they have requested space to grieve.
In 1932, the famous country singer was born near the remote Appalachian village of Butcher Hollow in Van Lear, Kentucky. In her early years, Lynn didn’t perform much singing or songwriting, but the music was always around her as the second of eight children (her siblings include fellow country singer Crystal Gayle).
In fact, when Lynn ultimately moved out of her native neighborhood, she was surprised to find that other neighborhoods didn’t spend as much time singing.
She said, in an interview with EW in 2016, just before the release of her thoughtful Full Circle LP, “When I left the holler, I went back and told Mommy, “Did you know that everybody doesn’t sing?” “I commented, “Mommy, there are many individuals who cannot sing, and I am not joking you!” When Mommy visited Indiana, she discovered the truth for herself.”
The pair went across the country to Custer, Washington, where Doolittle worked in logging camps, in 1948 when Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn married 15-year-old Lynn. A year later, she gave birth to her first child, and four more followed before she turned 21. Despite having a far from perfect marriage, she found comfort and hope when her husband gave her her first guitar.
According to Loretta, “I’d compose it in a song. Whatever I did that day, whatever [was] on my mind.” The slow “Whispering Sea” was the first song she ever wrote and rerecorded for Circle.
She said in the same interview, “I wrote that sitting in a tree branch hanging over the ocean, fishing. “I wrote it down on a piece of paper when I came home, and that was all.” She continues, “It was simply as simple as anything,” in a manner that would come to represent her personality.
Doolittle urged Lynn to start singing in bars and competitions after realizing her natural talent. She originally achieved success in country music with the publication of “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” in 1960. She and Doolittle drove across the nation to promote the album on their own, stopping at as many radio stations as they could before arriving in Nashville.
Lynn became a regular on the Grand Ole Opry thanks to her flinty voice and direct lyrics, and her work ethic propelled her to stardom. She signed with Decca, releasing more than 50 records for the label over the ensuing 30 years.
She released 16 number-one country singles, several of which have since evolved into classics, including “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” in 1967, “Fist City” in 1968, “Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)” in 1969, and the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in 1970.
She and Conway Twitty started working together in 1971, and the relationship would go on to be long-lasting and immensely popular. They often toured together and released a number of great songs, including “After the Fire is Gone,” “Lead Me On,” and “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” in 1971 and 1973, respectively.
Lynn was the first female to receive the prestigious Entertainer of the Year Award from the Country Music Association in 1972.
Coal Miner’s Daughter, Lynn’s autobiography published in 1976, served as the basis for Michael Apted’s 1980 film of the same name.
Sissy Spacek, who won an Oscar for the role, was hand-picked by Lynn to play her in the film. Along the way, Lynn has also tried her hand at acting, making cameos on shows including The Muppet Show, Fantasy Island, and The Dukes of Hazzard.
The late 1980s saw a slowdown in Lynn’s music career, but in 1988 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 1995 she received the Academy of Country Music Awards’ Pioneer Award.
She spent the majority of the early 1990s caring for her husband, who passed away in 1996 as a result of complications from diabetes, but she started composing solo music again in 2000.
She released Still Country to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her performing career. She was one of America’s greatest songwriters and only contributed two songs to the album, one of which was a beautiful ode to her late husband called “I Can’t Hear the Music.”
The legend, who had insisted on writing songs every day, got a whole new audience in 2004 with her Jack White collaboration Van Lear Rose, which also earned her her sole solo Grammy.
She returned three years after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama with the startling album Full Circle, which was produced by John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June Carter Cash.
Following a stroke in May 2017, Lynn, who is survived by four of her six children as well as her grandkids, resumed touring. Still, Woman Enough, her 50th studio album, which honored female artists in country music, was published in 2021.