Loretta Lynn, Legendary Country Music Singer, Dies at 90

Artist became one of the genre’s first true female superstars in the late ’60s
Loretta Lynn performing at Bonnaroo in 2011. Photo: FilmMagic

Legendary country music singer Loretta Lynn has died at age 90 at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., a spokesperson has confirmed to SPIN.

Lynn sold 45 million albums and scored 51 top 10 country hits in her career, including iconic songs such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Fist City” and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” From her days touring with Patsy Cline in the ’60s and already a mother of four in her early 20s, Lynn was well-versed in life’s hardships and not shy about making her feelings known. Taking a cue from Cline and the groundbreaking Kitty Wells, Lynn went on to become one of country’s first true female superstars in the late ’60s, which didn’t preclude country radio from banning her pro-birth control anthem “The Pill” in 1976.

But despite her rhetorical parallels, she rejected association with the early feminist movement, criticizing it for ignoring the issues of the working class (she also maintained that her music “has no politics,” which was lovably far from true).

“Breaking into the music business is even harder for a woman,” she told SPIN in a 2012 interview. “She’s got her career and she’s got her husband and kids. A woman’s got two jobs. That’s just the way you’ve got to look at it. My first four kids were in school by the time I was 22. I didn’t laugh at all back then. I was too busy to laugh.”

Although she remained in a rocky marriage to her late husband and manager, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, until he died in 1996, Lynn never kept his mistreatment a secret, writing extensively about it in her autobiography Coal Miner’s Daughter, which became one of the first hugely successful music biopics with the film of the same name in 1980.

After decades of making hits and earning more awards than any other woman in country’s history, in 2004, Lynn worked with Jack White on Van Lear Rose, which introduced her to a whole new generation. A follow-up, Full Circle, arrived in 2016. Throughout her career, she won four Grammys, seven American Music Awards and eight Country Music Association awards. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008 and was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

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