Visionary songwriter and role model for generations of country and pop artists


Loretta Lynn performs at a festival in Nashville, Tennessee.Picture AFP

Five years ago, Loretta Lynn suffered a stroke. She was 85 years old and must have had a moment of reflection after that setback and a glimpse of her tremendous career. Lynn had been touring non-stop for nearly sixty years, moving from one show to the next. She had single-handedly put together a bulging record cabinet and written books full of songs, always about the life that was never easy, yet so damn beautiful. Lynn was a persistent person, but now she might have to stop performing all the time.

And what did she do after the drastic decision? Write new songs and release even more albums. Her sixtieth album was released last year Still woman enough, which turned out to be her last as the legendary country singer passed away on Monday. The record starts with the title song, a reference to her famous album You are not woman enough from 1966 and with a text in which she once again explains why she is such a fighter: ‘I’m still woman enough, still have what it takes. I know how to love, lose and survive. There’s not much I haven’t seen, I haven’t tried. Got knocked down but never out of the game.’

Surrounded by love

Lynn had set her incomprehensible life to music more than once. Her album was released in 1971 The Coal Miner’s Daughter, one of the great classics of American country. An album so poignant that it was made into a movie in 1980, won an Oscar and was designated a protected cultural heritage site by the US Library of Congress.

Lynn was born in 1932 in the village of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky as Loretta Webb, the daughter of a poor family of eight children. Her father worked as a miner and could barely feed his family. But according to Lynn, despite the harsh circumstances, she was surrounded by love when she sang in The Coal Miner’s Daughter, it would become her anthem: ‘We were poor, but we had love. That’s the one thing dad made sure of.’

At the age of 15, Lynn married Oliver Lynn, six years her senior, nicknamed Doolittle, whom she had met a month earlier. By the time she was 20, she had already given birth to four children – with two more to follow. The early years of her marriage were grueling as ‘Doo’ drank and cheated profusely while his wife looked after her children at home. And her husband acted like her second father, Lynn later wrote in her memoirs: “I went from Daddy to Doo: there was always a man telling me what to do.”

But Lynn also bit herself. “He never hit me without getting two hits in return,” was one of her oft-quoted statements. She sought refuge in music: Lynn bought a cheap guitar and started writing songs in her 20s. And there she also competed against dominant men, including her own, to whom she nevertheless remained loyal until his death in 1996.

In the 1950s, Lynn began performing in local bars. She formed a band called The Trailblazers and participated in talent shows. Lynn was discovered, signed to her first record label Zero Records and started her music career. In 1962, she already had a big hit with the song success and an endless stream of songs and albums followed, including her breakthrough record Fist Cityfrom 1968.

loose morals

Lynn distinguished herself with combative, autobiographical songs about very normal American women living in very abnormal conditions. She sang about unequal family relationships, about bourgeois morality and the difficulties experienced by women after divorce.

Many of her songs were seen as controversial by conservative America. Her song became famous The pill from 1975, about a woman who becomes pregnant year after year and can finally try to take control of her life thanks to contraception. Many radio stations refused to play the song because it would promote ‘loose morals’, but Lynn still had a hit with it.

Lynn was able to make millions of Americans aware of hot topics, also because her songs were always accessible, sounded remarkably cheerful and, moreover, were carried by a penetrating, but flawless and cheerful voice. Lynn grew into one of America’s biggest country stars in the 1970s. She was showered with all imaginable prizes and became even bigger through her collaboration with the singer Conway Twitty, with whom she sang unforgettable duets on, for example, the hit record Louisiana woman, Mississippi man from 1973.

But on Monday’s passing at the age of 90, Lynn is remembered above all as a visionary songwriter and a great example for many generations of female country and pop artists who see Lynn as a emancipator of the country – but also as a vocal supporter. behind his hard-working and sometimes brooding compatriots, husband and wife.

The way Lynn fought her way out of misery and subsequently managed to translate that misery into a masterful and resilient oeuvre is American history.

THREE TIMES LORETTA LYNN


Loretta Lynn didn’t just sing about brutal men but also about ugly women chasing her husband. IN Fist City she warned one last time, “I’m here to tell you, girl, to fire my husband if you don’t want to go to fist city.”

Lynn became a famous duet singer with her musical partner Conway Twitter. Their voices merged perfectly, for example in the sad After the fire is goneabout the fire of love that sometimes goes out: ‘There is nothing cold as ashes after the fire is gone.’

The country’s Queen made it to a very old age poignant albums. The beautiful Full circle for example with the song on put me downwhere she sings with Willie Nelson about the end, which is still quite far away: ‘My spirit stood on solid ground, I’ll be at peace when they lay me down.’

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