Loretta Lynn, the Boundary-Pushin’ First Lady of Country Music, Dies @ 90

Loretta Lynn, one of country music's most indelible icons and the form's most-awarded artist, died on Tuesday at 90.

Lynn's final album (Image via Victrola)

A family statement reported that the legend passed away at her Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, home. Lynn's family confirmed their "precious mom" had "passed peacefully in her sleep."

Reba McEntire (b. 1955) said of Lynn's passing, “Mama and Loretta were four years apart, Mama being the oldest. They always reminded me a lot of each other. Strong women, who loved their children and were fiercely loyal. Now they’re both in heaven getting to visit and talk about how they were raised, how different country music is now from what it was when they were young. Sure makes me feel good that Mama went first so she could welcome Loretta into the hollers of heaven. I always did and I always will love Loretta. She was always so nice to me. I sure appreciate her paving the rough and rocky road for all us girl singers.” 

Dolly Parton posted a statement that read:

(Image via Instagram)

Lynn, a musician whose personal story powered her to superstardom in tandem with her catchy, clever music, had a hardscrabble start in Kentucky's coal country.

She was married by 15 and a mom by 16, and her tough personal life made her 1976 autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter a best-selling book.

The book was adapted for film in 1980. Coal Miner's Daughter was among the year's Top 10-grossing movies, receiving seven Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture. Sissy Spacek took home the Oscar for Best Actress.

Lynn was born on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Hollow (pronounced "Holler" by natives), Kentucky, the second child of eight.

With the encouragement of her husband, Doolittle Lynn, she taught herself to play guitar and formed a band called Loretta and the Trailblazers, playing locally. She made her first solo recording in 1960: "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." It was a Top 15 country hit, leading to her Grand Ole Opry debut.

Lynn became close friends with one of her idols, singer Patsy Cline (1932-1963). Their friendship was portrayed in Coal Miner's Daughter, with Beverly D'Angelo (b. 1951) as Cline. The film included the tragedy of Cline's death at 30 in a 1963 plane crash. Lynn later, in 2020, published a memoir of their friendship called Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust.

Lynn's personal life was tumultuous, including a mental breakdown and a husband she stuck with for 49 years until his death, in spite of his cheating — her 1966 hit "You Ain't Woman Enough (to Take My Man)" was about her confrontation with one of her husband's mistresses — and alcoholism, and even in spite of physical abuse that she downplayed by saying she gave as good as she got.

Lynn's special talent was to spin her misfortunes into creative gold that made her into a relatable and different kind of heroine to many.

After several years as a staple of the Nashville scene and numerous country hits that addressed social issues like infidelity, she achieved her first country number-one smash with "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (with Lovin' on Your Mind)" in 1966. She had two more — "Fist City" (1968) and "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)" (1969) — before the decade was over.

Lynn's first cross-over hit was her signature tune "Coal Miner's Daughter" in 1970, a song that would become ubiquitous in the culture following the success of the film.

It was also another of her country chart-toppers, which also included "One's on the Way" (1971), "Rated 'X'" (1972), "Love Is the Foundation" (1973), "Trouble in Paradise" (1974), "Somebody Somewhere (Don't Know What He's Missin' Tonight)" (1976), "She's Got You" (1977), and "Out of My Head and Back in My Bed" (1977).

"The Pill," recorded in 1972 and finally released in 1975, was a comic take on birth control that was hugely controversial at the time — leading to some bans from country stations. Nonetheless, it became one of her most famous singles, and her biggest Billboard Hot 100 pop hit, at #70.

Lynn's influence on her genre was undeniable, and she was honored innumerable times along the way. Nominated 18 times for Grammys, she won three.

President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Lynn toured for nearly 60 years, but ended live appearances after a 2017 stroke and a bad fall in 2018 that led to a broken hip.

Lynn was preceded in death by her husband in 1996, and by two of her children.

She is survived by her younger sister, fellow country star, Crystal Gayle; three daughters; a son; 21 grandchildren and step-grandchildren; and a number of great-grandchildren.

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