Music

Loretta Lynn, country music icon, has died at 90

The country singer brought unparalleled candor about the domestic realities of working-class women to country songwriting over the course of her 60-year career.

Loretta Lynn performs on stage in California in 1972.
Loretta Lynn performs on stage in California in 1972. Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Loretta Lynn, the country music icon who brought unparalleled candor about the domestic realities of working-class women to country songwriting — and taught those who came after her to speak their minds, too – died today at her home in Tennessee. She was 90 years old.

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

Born Loretta Webb, the singer was raised in a remote coal mining community in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. She was barely a teenager when she started a family of her own with a 21-year-old former soldier, Oliver Lynn, better known as “Mooney” or “Doolittle.”

One of the biggest songs of her career, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” proudly recounted her hardscrabble background. And while country songs had often portrayed hardship from male perspectives, Lynn wasn’t afraid to spell out the indignities she endured in her marriage, or the double standards she saw other women facing when it came to divorce, pregnancy and birth control, throughout the course of her 60-year career.

Fifty-one of her songs became top 10 country hits on the Billboard charts, including “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” and “Fist City.” In 1972, Loretta Lynn was the first woman named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association. Her influence reached a new generation of music fans in 1980, when an Oscar-winning film was made about her life, called Coal Miner’s Daughter. Her music and perspective have impacted many generations of songwriters across genres, including Jack White, with whom she made the album Van Lear Rose in 2004.

Throughout her career, it was essential to Lynn’s enduring appeal that she never lost touch with her identity as a simultaneously modern and down-to-earth country woman who could communicate that to crowds throughout her career. Her gutsiness comes through just as clearly today in the music she left behind.

“I like real life, because that’s what we’re doing today,” Lynn told All Things Considered in 2004. “And I think that’s why people bought my records, because they’re living in this world. And so am I. So I see what’s going on, and I grab it.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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