Loretta Lynn is the daughter of Ted Webb, a coal miner and his wife Clara Ramey. They were hard-working people who lived in a community where income was poor and black lung disease was prevalent to miners. Given the dangers of mining, the families in the small community were close to each other.
I could not help but think if some of the good character traits that Loretta practiced during her years as a singer were the result of her upbringing. Along with her parents, a third person who had a major influence on her is the man she married when she was 15 years old.
He was Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn. He was six years older than Loretta. She married him in January 1948 after dating him for only a month after they met.
Before her marriage she sang regularly in churches at Butcher Hollow. Loretta was the second of eight children and often sang to her siblings at home. When she married and began to have children she passed her love of music on to them quite often singing hymns her mother had taught her.
In 1953 ‘Doo’ bought her a Harmony guitar. She taught herself to play. She worked hard to improve her playing and with “Doolittle’s” encouragement started her own band. He was also instrumental in getting her the first radio appearances and serving as her Talent Manager for several years. He consistently motivated her to be persistent and reaffirm that things will all work out.
He definitely was a major influence on her is so many ways. They had been married for almost 50 years when he passed away. Their marriage was a tumultuous one but their rocky marriage provided the script for so many of Loretta’s songs that she wrote.
As she said, “I married Doo when I wasn’t but a child, and he was my life from that day on. But as important as my youth and upbringing was, there was something else that made me stick to Doo. He thought I was something special. More special than anyone else in the world and never let me forget it. That belief would be hard to shove out the door. Doo was my security, my safety net. And just remember, I’m explainin’ not excusin’. Doo was a good man and a hard worker. But he was an alcoholic, and it affected our marriage all the way through. He was also a womanizer. Cheating husbands have been all over the news talk shows for a few years now. Lots of women say they don’t understand why women stay with them dogs. My story is about one who did – me”.
And so in discussing the three persons that had a large influence on her we see a woman who has the admirable trait of Character. She stands up for what she believes in and what she feels is the right thing to do.
Loretta is also a Survivor. She and Doo had six children. Two of them have already passed on. A daughter died in 2013 from emphysema. She was 64. And a son died in 1984 by drowning. He was 34. A woman friend of mine once told me that her mother who had lost a child had said to her, “One of the worst things a parent can go through is losing a child who passes on before her”. I thought of that story as I wrote about Loretta’s two losses and her sorrow. And through it all how she managed to carry on with dignity and perseverance. With all the ups and downs she has had with a rocky marriage and the loss of two children she is truly a survivor.
Added to the above Loretta is a recognized advocate for ordinary women. She felt that no song topic was off-limits as long as it spoke for other ordinary women. Some of those songs were “Wings Upon Your Horns” about the loss of teenage virginity, “The Pill” about a mother and wife becoming liberated via the birth-control pill, “Rated X” about the double standards divorced women faced, and “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On You Mind).
Her accomplishments and awards are numerous. In 1967 she charted her first of 16 number-one hits such as “You Ain’t Woman Enough”, “Fist City”, and “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. She has written over 160 songs, released 60 albums and sold 45 million records worldwide. She has won four Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards.
In 1972 she was the first woman to be named “Entertainer of the Year” and in 1977 the first female country artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2010 she received the Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award for her 50 years in country music. On August 8, 2013 President Barack Obama announced that Loretta would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
I would encourage anyone who wants to learn more about this extraordinary woman to buy her autobiography “Coal Miner’s Daughter” or to see the movie under the same name. Loretta deserved every one of the awards she received.
In closing I want to say that if there should ever be a new award titled “The Advocate for Ordinary Women Award” then this Lady Singer should win it hands down.
Loretta Lynn: Singer, Songwriter, Author, Women’s Advocate and Standing Up for What She Believed in
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