It’s a sad day for country music. Iconic singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn has died at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. She was 90 years old. Lynn’s family issued the following statement earlier today: “Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home in her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills.” Plans for Lynn’s funeral and memorial services have not yet been announced.
A Coal Miner’s Daughter
Lynn’s story of determination, humility, and perseverance has inspired generations of women. Born in rural Kentucky in 1932, Loretta Webb was the eldest of eight children and the daughter of a coal miner and subsistence farmer. At 15, she wed Oliver Lynn, the man who bought Lynn her first guitar, encouraged her music career, and later became her manager. (The two were married until his death in 1996.)
Loretta Lynn’s Musical Legacy
As a true Southern woman, Lynn’s twangy voice and powerful but understated storytelling were her birthright. Among her numerous hits, “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” and, of course, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” are, arguably, the most well-known. All of her songs – but these three, especially – reflected her experiences, eloquently capturing the struggles of women and the challenges of Appalachian life in a way that spoke deeply to anyone who heard them. (Her father was, in fact, a coal miner who died at the age of 52 from black lung disease.) Lynn’s down-home, plainspoken rendering of the pain and losses that touch us all appealed to people of every background, and her hits became anthems for women, in particular.
At a time when women in country music were just beginning to step up to the lead singer’s microphone, Lynn championed the seemingly contradictory combination of glamorous femininity and tough, straightforward lyrics.
In a 2020 interview with Woman’s World, she offered sage advice: “Go to a mirror and take a darn good look at yourself and say, ‘I’m just as good as anybody else, and I can do just as much as anybody else. I’ll get through this, and I’ll get through it with flying colors.’ And as you look yourself in the eye and say those words, believe them!”
Her bold, honest style has inspired countless artists in the six decades since she got her start, and her music stands as a testament to the art of turning a difficult life into something beautiful.
In 1976, Lynn published her memoir, naturally titled Coal Miner’s Daughter. Four years later, the book was made into a film starring Sissy Spacek as Lynn. (Spacek went on to win an Oscar for this role.) Lynn also received a number of awards herself. In 1988, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. The country music charts have been home to 77 of her singles, and she won Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010), American Music Awards, and Academy of Country Music Awards, to name only a few.
Remembering Loretta Lynn
Tributes to the beloved country singer began pouring in early this morning, with remembrances from the musical women she inspired. “I always did and I always will love Loretta,” said Reba McEntire in a statement. “I sure appreciate her for paving the rough and rocky road for all us girl singers.”
In a tweet, Carole King said simply: “She was an inspiration.”
“It’s so hard to feel like you have the right words,” wrote Martina McBride, in a heartfelt tribute posted on Instagram. “There will never be another like her. I am so grateful that I got to know her, to spend time with her, laugh with her.”
“She is irreplaceable. She will be incredibly missed,” said Carrie Underwood in an Instagram tribute featuring a picture of Lynn holding her customized guitar.
Fellow country queen Dolly Parton wrote a sweet tribute, saying she and Lynn had “been like sisters all the years we’ve been in Nashville.”
Lynn’s legacy lives on not just in her extensive body of work — she released over 50 albums — but also in the voice of every female country singer who has taken the stage in the decades since she first came on the scene. From coal miner’s daughter to country superstar, Lynn’s unforgettable story and groundbreaking music will forever remain in the hearts of her millions of admirers.