Loretta Lynn Dies

The Coal Miner’s Daughter

Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky[1], on April 14, 1932. She was the second of eight children born (the oldest daughter) into the coal industry, a hard-earned living she’d later immortalize in her music.

Her parents were Clara Marie “Clary” and Melvin Theodore “Ted” Webb. He was a coal miner and subsistence farmer[2]. Her family always claimed Cherokee heritage but was not recognized as members of a tribe.

He died from a stroke at age 52 (he was also suffering from black lung disease[3]) after the family had relocated to Wabash, Indiana. On January 10, 1948, 15-year-old Loretta Webb married 21-year-old Oliver Vanetta “Doolittle” Lynn. They would remain married for 50 years (until his death) and had 6 children together.

They moved to  Custer, Washington and Doolittle bought her a guitar and encouraged her musical career. She taught herself to play, started writing songs, and formed her own band, Loretta and the Trailblazers, with her brother Jay Lee playing lead guitar.

She often appeared at Bob’s Tavern in Blaine, Washington, and the Delta Grange Hall in Custer, Washington, with the Pen Brothers’ band and the Westerneers. She cut her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, in February 1960.

Lynn won a wristwatch in a televised talent contest in Tacoma, Washington, hosted by Buck Owens. Lynn’s performance was seen by Canadian Norm Burley of Zero Records, who co-founded the record company after hearing Loretta sing.

Because we were too poor to stay in hotels, we slept in the car and ate baloney and cheese sandwiches in the parks … we were on the road three months

Loretta Lynn

That 1960 song “I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl” reached the Country Top 20. and led to her being signed by a major label, Decca. It was inspired by the story of someone Lynn met and befriended, and its subject matter – a woman devastated by a breakup – would be visited again and again by Lynn, whose songs often depicted broken hearts or damaging relationships, and often featured feisty heroines.

Her second No 1, “Fist City”, was a threat to other women not to come near her husband, while another country chart-topper, “Rated X”, addressed the stigma of divorce; 1975’s “The Pill” crossed over into the pop charts with its controversially frank celebration of birth control. Loretta Lynn released 86 singles and 14 music videos.

Grand Ole Opry

Loretta joined the Grand Ole Opry on September 25, 1962.

Some of her bigger singles in the 1960s were “Success” (1962), “The Other Woman” (1963), “Before I’m Over You” (1963), “Wine, Women, and Song” (1964), “Happy Birthday” (1964), “Blue Kentucky Girl” (1965), “Dear Uncle Sam” (1966), “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” (1966),

Country number 1 “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” (1966), “If You’re Not Gone Too Long” (1967), “What Kind of a Girl (Do You Think I Am)” (1967), Country number 1 “Fist City”(1968), “You’ve Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me)” (1968), “Your Squaw Is on the Warpath” (1968), Country number 1 “Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)” (1969), and “To Make a Man (Feel Like a Man)” (1969).

She started raking in the number ones in the 1970s with songs like “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970), “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).

Other high-ranking singles for Loretta in the 1970s were “I Know How” (1970), “You Wanna Give Me a Lift” (1970), “I Wanna Be Free” (1971), “You’re Lookin’ at Country” (1971), “Here I Am Again” (1972), “Hey Loretta” (1973), “They Don’t Make ’em Like My Daddy” ((1974), “The Pill” (1975), “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill” (1975), “Why Can’t He Be You” (1977), “I Can’t Feel You Anymore” (1979), and “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” (1979).

In 1971, Lynn began a professional partnership with Conway Twitty. As a duo, Lynn and Twitty had five consecutive No. 1 hits between 1971 and 1975, including “After the Fire Is Gone” (1971), which won them a Grammy award, “Lead Me On” (1971), “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” (1973), “As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone” (1974), and “Feelins'” (1974).

For four consecutive years, from 1972–1975, Lynn and Twitty were named the “Vocal Duo of the Year” by the Country Music Association. The Academy of Country Music named them the “Best Vocal Duet” in 1971, 1974, 1975, and 1976. The American Music Awards selected them as the “Favorite Country Duo” in 1975, 1976, and 1977.

The fan-voted Music City News readers voted them the No. 1 duet every year between 1971 and 1981, inclusive. In addition to their five No. 1 singles, they had seven other Top 10 hits between 1976 and 1981

Lynn wrote more than 160 songs and released 60 albums. She had 10 No. 1 albums and 16 No. 1 singles on the country charts. Lynn won three Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, eight Broadcast Music Incorporated awards, 13 Academy of Country Music, eight Country Music Association, and 26 fan-voted Music City News awards. Lynn remains the most awarded woman in country music history. She was the first woman in country music to receive a certified gold album for 1967’s Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).

She wrote a successful autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, in 1976 and her life story inspired a 1980 biopic of the same name. It starred Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, and earned seven Oscar nominations, with Spacek winning best actress for her performance. The film debuted in Nashville and soon became the No. 1 box office hit in the United States.

In 2017 Loretta had a stroke and in 2018 fell and broke her hip. Loretta Lynn died in her sleep at home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on October 4, 2022. She was 90.

  1. Butcher Hollow (also known as Butcher Holler) is a coal-mining community in Johnson County, Kentucky, United States. It is the site of the 1948 Butcher Hollow P-47 Thunderbolt Crash involving Tuskegee Airmen combat fighter pilot Harry Stewart, Jr. Butcher Hollow took the name of a nearby valley named for the local Butcher family. Butcher Hollow is a part of the community of Van Lear, which the Consolidation Coal Company constructed in the early part of the 20th century. Van Lear was named for Van Lear Black, one of the company’s directors. Although most of Butcher Hollow lies outside of the old Van Lear city limits, the mailing address of those who have lived there has been Van Lear since the establishment of the Van Lear post office in 1909. Butcher Hollow is not an independent town or village in its own right. Currently, Van Lear is an unincorporated community. There are no deep mines operating in Van Lear proper, although some mines operate nearby. Most of the residents work in locations outside Van Lear, including the nearby cities of Paintsville, Prestonsburg, and Pikeville. Since the end of local mining, only a handful of businesses continue to operate in the Van Lear area, including a bookstore, Mine Number 5 Store, The East Kentucky Museum of Mysteries, and Icky’s 1950s Snack Shop (located inside the Coal Miners’ Museum). Although Butcher Hollow is often listed as a separate town, it is geographically considered a street or a neighborhood by natives of Eastern Kentucky. Thus, Butcher Hollow’s address would be Butcher Hollow, Van Lear, Johnson County, Kentucky. [Back]
  2. Subsistence agriculture occurs when farmers grow food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families on smallholdings. Subsistence agriculturalists target farm output for survival and for mostly local requirements, with little or no surplus. Planting decisions occur principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and only secondarily toward market prices. Tony Waters, a professor of sociology, defines “subsistence peasants” as “people who grow what they eat, build their own houses, and live without regularly making purchases in the marketplace.” [Back]
  3. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease or black lung, is an occupational type of pneumoconiosis caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. It is common in coal miners and others who work with coal. It is similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust and asbestosis from inhaling asbestos dust. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in worse cases, necrosis. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a severe state, develops after the initial, milder form of the disease known as anthracosis (from the Greek άνθρακας, or anthracas —coal, carbon). This is often asymptomatic and is found to at least some extent in all urban dwellers due to air pollution. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of coal dust can result in more serious forms of the disease, simple coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and complicated coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (or progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF). More commonly, workers exposed to coal dust develop industrial bronchitis, clinically defined as chronic bronchitis (i.e. productive cough for 3 months per year for at least 2 years) associated with workplace dust exposure. The incidence of industrial bronchitis varies with age, job, exposure, and smoking. In nonsmokers (who are less prone to develop bronchitis than smokers), studies of coal miners have shown a 16% to 17% incidence of industrial bronchitis. In 2013 CWP resulted in 25,000 deaths globally—down from 29,000 deaths in 1990. However, a later 2018 study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health shows a resurgence, recording the highest rate of CWP in roughly two decades. [Back]


The Guardian

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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