Estimated reading time 5 minutes 5 Min

Loretta Lynn, coal miner’s daughter and country queen, dies aged 90

Coal Miner’s Daughter Loretta Lynn, a country music legend, has died in the US at the age 0f 90.

October 5, 2022
By Kristin M Hall, Associated Press
5 October 2022

Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter whose frank songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia pulled her out of poverty and made her a pillar of country music, has died at the age of 90.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Lynn’s family said she died on Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

President Barack Obama awards country music legend Loretta Lynn with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Lynn already had four children before launching her career in the early 1960s, and her songs reflected her pride in her rural Kentucky background.

As a songwriter, she crafted a persona of a defiantly tough woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers.

The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote fearlessly about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce and birth control and sometimes got in trouble with radio programmers for material from which even rock performers once shied away.

Her biggest hits came in the 1960s and ’70s, including Coal Miner’s Daughter, You Ain’t Woman Enough, The Pill, Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind), Rated X and You’re Looking At Country.

She was known for appearing in floor-length, wide gowns with elaborate embroidery or rhinestones, many created by her longtime personal assistant and designer Tim Cobb.

Her honesty and unique place in country music was rewarded. She was the first woman ever named entertainer of the year at the genre’s two major awards shows, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.

“It was what I wanted to hear and what I knew other women wanted to hear, too,” Lynn told the AP in 2016. “I didn’t write for the men; I wrote for us women. And the men loved it, too.”

In 1969, she released her autobiographical Coal Miner’s Daughter, which helped her reach her widest audience yet.

“We were poor but we had love/That’s the one thing Daddy made sure of/He shovelled coal to make a poor man’s dollar,” she sang.

Obit Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn points to her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 1978 (AP Photo/File)

Coal Miner’s Daughter, also the title of her 1976 book, was made into a 1980 movie of the same name. Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of Lynn won her an Academy Award and the film was also nominated for best picture.

Long after her commercial peak, Lynn won two Grammys in 2005 for her album Van Lear Rose, which featured 13 songs she wrote, including Portland, Oregon about a drunken one-night stand.

Van Lear Rose was a collaboration with rocker Jack White, who produced the album and played the guitar parts.

Early life

Born Loretta Webb, the second of eight children, she claimed her birthplace was Butcher Holler, near the coal mining company town of Van Lear in the mountains of east Kentucky. There was not a Butcher Holler, however. She later told a reporter that she made up the name for the purposes of the song based on the names of the families that lived there.

She wrote in her autobiography that she was 13 when she got married to Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, but the AP later discovered state records that showed she was 15. Tommy Lee Jones played Mooney Lynn in the biopic.

Her husband, whom she called “Doo” or “Doolittle”, urged her to sing professionally and helped promote her early career. With his help, she earned a recording contract with Decca Records, later MCA, and performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Lynn wrote her first hit single, I’m A Honky Tonk Girl, released in 1960.

Obit Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn poses for a photo at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville in 2016. (Donn Jones/Invision/AP)

She also teamed up with singer Conway Twitty to form one of the most popular duos in country music with hits such as Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man and After the Fire Is Gone, which earned them a Grammy Award. Their duets, and her single records, were always mainstream country and not crossover or pop-tinged.

The Academy of Country Music chose her as the artist of the decade for the 1970s, and she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.

She moved to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, in the 1990s, where she set up a ranch complete with a replica of her childhood home and a museum that is a popular roadside tourist stop. The dresses she was known for wearing are there, too.

Even into her later years, Lynn never seemed to stop writing, scoring a multi-album deal in 2014 with Legacy Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. In 2017, she suffered a stroke that forced her to postpone her shows.

Loretta Lynn embraces her husband, Oliver “Mooney” Lynn in 1982. (AP Photo/Antonio Carozza, File)

She and her husband were married nearly 50 years before he died in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest and Clara, and then twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.

More in Top Stories