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Loretta Lynn’s 10 Most Notable Collaborations — From Frank Sinatra to Willie Nelson

The singer's most dazzling duets.


Loretta Lynn’s talent and one-of-a-kind voice made her one of the most celebrated country musicians to grace the genre. Songs like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” and “The Pill” put her on the map and made her a household name over each decade that passed. However, her numerous collaborations with other famed musicians stand out as being just as influential as her solo work. Artists both within the country genre and outside of it deeply admired her. Here’s a glimpse at 10 of Loretta Lynn’s most storied collaborations from her glittering career.

1. Ernest Tubb: “Mr. and Mrs. Used To Be” (1964)

Beginning in the mid-1960s, prior to enjoying success with Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn teamed up with Ernest Tubb and earned several charting country hits. The pairing was inspired: Tubb was a Nashville veteran with a genteel drawl, while Loretta was already a young country star known for a bittersweet, wise-beyond-her-years twang. Together, the duet partners exuded sadness and regret on 1964’s “Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be” — a clear-eyed song about the aftermath of divorce — and played up the tension of a rocky relationship on 1967’s warning shot, “Sweet Thang.” At times, Tubb’s delivery made it sound like he was in Loretta’s shadow — a sign of things to come.

2. Conway Twitty: “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” (1973)

No list of Loretta collaborators is complete without Conway Twitty. For a solid decade starting in 1971, the award-winning duet partners were a constant presence near the top of the country charts. Part of that is due to indelible songs, of course, like the brutally honest “After the Fire Is Gone,” which explores the nuances of an affair filling the void of a loveless marriage. But Loretta and Twitty excelled at playing off of each other’s vocal strengths. On their 1973 signature song, “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” the pair execute call-and-response passages with expert timing before leaping into a section where their voices blend together in perfect, warm tones.

3. Frank Sinatra: “All or Nothing at All” (1977)

During the 1970s, the abundance of network television variety shows provided a platform for some utterly unique musical pairings. Case in point: In 1977, Rat Pack ringleader Frank Sinatra recruited Loretta for a disco-influenced version of his major 1943 hit, “All or Nothing at All,” on the TV special Sinatra and Friends. (They also teamed up for Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You.”) On paper, this might seem an odd match. However, the resulting duet is lively, driven by frothy grooves and peppy horns. Loretta adopts a typically earnest stance alongside Sinatra’s trademark laid-back, cool-cat swing. She more than held her own vocally, belting out lines in a conversational, open-hearted tone.

4. George Jones: “We Sure Make Good Love” (1984)

In 1984, when country legend George Jones put together an album of duets with notable country women, Ladies’ Choice, he naturally called on Loretta for one of the collaborations. The resulting duet, “We Sure Make Good Love,” flips the script on domestic life. Both Jones and Loretta portray spouses who happily declare they’re terrible at living up to gender stereotypes. The latter can’t cook, and the former isn’t handy. Yet on the understated (but giddy) chorus, the pair sing the title phrase together, emphasizing what’s important: the loving union at the heart of the song.

5. Crystal Gayle: “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1989)

Crystal Gayle is Loretta Lynn’s youngest sister by more than 18 years. In fact, Gayle wasn’t even a teenager yet when Loretta started having hits. However, the siblings eventually found common ground on the stage, including during a memorable 1989 duet performance with the Boston Pops Orchestra. There’s nothing quite so magical as familial vocal harmonies and melodies — and so even though Gayle tends to have a more soulful, pop-leaning timbre to her singing than her older sister, they sound stunning together on “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

6. Jack White: “Portland, Oregon” (2004)

After finding massive success with garage-blues band The White Stripes, Detroit native Jack White broadened his creative horizons. In 2004, he produced and performed on Lynn’s Grammy-winning album, Van Lear Rose. The full-length project was a return to her roots as a songwriter: She wrote every tune on the album, including a barn-storming, twangy duet with White, “Portland, Oregon.” Spirited but sweet, the narrative describes a romantic dalliance informed by sloe gin fizzes and the intoxicating Pacific Northwest locale. Like any good story however, “Portland, Oregon” leaves the possibility of a more permanent fling on the table.

7. Elvis Costello: “Everything It Takes” (2016)

Over the years, Loretta has perfected the art of writing a song that elegantly takes down someone with suspect morality. Case in point: On her 2016 album Full Circle, the smoldering cautionary tale, “Everything It Takes,” advises against becoming entangled with a woman who has nefarious intentions. Shape-shifting British rocker Elvis Costello features on the piano and pedal steel-driven ballad, reinforcing Loretta’s warnings with well-placed vocal backups on specific lines, such as the refrain, “She’s got everything it takes to take everything you’ve got.”

8. Willie Nelson: “Lay Me Down” (2016)

As two of country music’s most beloved icons, it stands to reason that Loretta and Willie Nelson crossed paths through the years. And while that’s true — the pair are longtime friends — they somehow hadn’t collaborated musically until linking up to perform a song together on 2016’s Full Circle. The resulting duet, “Lay Me Down,” lives up to expectations. Mournful fiddle and sparse acoustic guitar dominate, leaving space for solemn vocal takes from both Nelson and Loretta, as they reflect on being in the twilight of life — but still knowing they have important work to do.

9. Margo Price: “One’s on the Way” (2021)

It’s not a stretch to call Margo Price a modern-day Loretta Lynn. Not only do both musicians write songs that boldly speak truth to what women experience, but their voices are similar: brassy, confident, and expressive. In 2017, the pair performed a note-perfect duet of Lynn’s gospel-rich 1965 song, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven,” live at the Ryman Auditorium. On Loretta’s 2021 album Still Woman Enough, they joined forces again for a playful (if pointed) version of the groundbreaking “One’s on the Way,” which details a pregnant woman musing about the burgeoning feminist movement.

10. Tanya Tucker: “You Ain’t Woman Enough” (2021)

Both Loretta and Tanya Tucker carved out careers on their own terms, marked by a commitment to redefining what a female country star should be. On Still Woman Enough, the pair covered the perfect embodiment of self-assertiveness: the 1966 empowerment anthem, “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Based on a true story about a woman telling off her man’s potential mistress, this brash and sassy version is informed by decades of life experience — meaning it’s brimming with self-confidence and conspiratorial vocal performances.

A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine Loretta Lynn.

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