Country Music Legend Loretta Lynn Dies at 90
Farewell to an icon. Loretta Lynn has died at age 90.
The country music superstar’s family confirmed the news in a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday, October 4. “Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home in her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” the statement read. The family noted that a memorial for the beloved songwriter will be announced later.
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“It is not enough to say today that Country Music has lost Loretta Lynn, but rather the world has lost a true music legend,” Sarah Trahern, the CEO of the Country Music Association, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Loretta was a woman whose contributions and impact inspired countless artists and transformed the Country genre into a universal art form. She was a Country Music Hall of Fame member and the first woman to receive a CMA Award for Entertainer of the Year. As a trailblazing songwriter, she bravely wrote about socially and culturally relevant topics that came to define a generation. I’ll personally remember Loretta for her spirit, artistry and genius that rivaled contemporaries like Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.”
The “You Ain’t Woman Enough” singer was hospitalized for a stroke in May 2017 and canceled tour dates and an album release. Five months later, she returned to the spotlight last October when she spoke at an event celebrating her friend Alan Jackson‘s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Lynn appeared frail as she walked out onto the stage with support and said that Jackson was the only person that could make her leave her house.
In January 2018, she fell and broke her hip at her Tennessee home, prompting her sister, singer Crystal Gayle, to ask fans for “love and prayers.”
Lynn, who was born Loretta Webb in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, was the most awarded female country recording artist, selling more than 45 million albums worldwide.
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Married at the age of 15, she learned to play a $17 guitar that her husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, bought for her and cut her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” in 1960. She scored her first number-one song seven years later, and went on to have 15 more chart-topping hits including “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”
The “Fist City” singer never shied away from the truth in her lyrics, which occasionally got her into trouble. Her 1975 hit “The Pill” — which celebrates the invention and availability of birth control pills — was held by her record label for three years. When it finally debuted, many country radio stations refused to play it, and she was nearly barred from singing it at the Grand Ole Opry.
Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Oscar-winning film, with Sissy Spacek getting an Academy Award for her portrayal of the star.
Loretta and her husband, whose nickname was Doo, had six children and were married for 48 years until his death in 1996. The singer later revealed in her 2002 autobiography, Still Woman Enough, that her husband cheated on her and they had a tumultuous relationship. “He never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice,” she told CBS News in 2002.
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She wrote songs about fighting with Doo and his drinking and infidelity, telling Time in 2016 that when she sang them, “I knew that women would like them because all women live the same way, you know? Most women.”
Lynn, who had 70 songs on the charts as a solo artist and duet partner, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999. She awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2013.
“This coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to talk about and saying what no one wanted to think about,” Obama, 61, said at the medal ceremony. “And now, over 50 years after she cut her first record … Loretta Lynn still reigns as the rule-breaking, record-setting queen of country music.”
In 2004, Loretta made a critical and commercial comeback with the album Van Lear Rose, which was produced by Jack White. The LP took home the Best Country Album award at the 2005 Grammys, while the single “Portland Oregon” won Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
The “Rated X” songstress continued recording until the end of her life, releasing her final album, Still Woman Enough, in March 2021. The release featured new songs as well as new versions of older songs, including an updated edition of the title track with guest vocals from Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.
Loretta is survived by son Ernest, 71, daughter Clara, 70, and twins Peggy and Patsy, 58. Her and Doo’s son Jack drowned in 1984 at age 34, while their daughter Betty died of emphysema in 2013 at age 64.
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