Born on April 14, 1935 to Ted and Clara Webb Loretta Lynn
Webb grew up in Butcher Holler, a small mining community in Johnson County,
Kentucky, and was married at age twelve and a half to Oliver Vanetta Lynn
(commonly known as "Doolittle", "Doo", or "Mooney") in January, 1948. The Lynns
had four children by the time Loretta was 17, and was a grandmother at age 29.
She has released 70 albums and had 17 number 1 albums and 27 number 1 singles.
Her first single was "Honky Tonk Girl" which reached number 14 on the Billboard
singles chart. She made several albums with Conway Twitty. Her younger sister,
Crystal Gayle, is a well-known country singer in her own right. Lynn wrote
Gayle's debut single, I've Cried (the Blue Right Out of My Eyes). Gayle and Lynn
are cousins of country music singer Patty Loveless.
Loretta Lynn moved to Washington with her husband at the age of 13. Loretta always had a passion for music, before getting married she regularly sang at churches and in local concerts. After her marriage she stopped singing in public instead passing her love of music on to her children and singing to them often. At 18 Oliver bought his wife a guitar, which she taught herself to play. Her big break came when she won a local talent competition and was noticed by Buck Owens who invited her on his television show. That preformance led to a deal with Zero Records. In 1960 Lynn recorded "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl" the song was sent out to radio station owners and disc jockeys by Loretta and Oliver themselves since Zero Records didn't have the money to promote them. The family them moved to Nashville to promote it. It was a hit before they even got there peaking at fourteen on the charts.
Kitty Wells became the first major country female vocalist in the 1950's but by the time Loretta made her first record in 1960, only three other women, Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, and Jean Shepard had become top stars. By the end of 1962 it was clear Loretta was on her way to becoming the fourth to follow Wells' lead to the top.
Loretta Lynn gained even greater success after a collaberation with The Wilburn Brothers (Teddy and Doyle) who were responsible for her release from the Zero Records label, her subsequent signing with Decca Records and her initial appearances on the 'Grand Ole Opry'. Loretta signed both lifetime (20 year) songwriting contracts and performance contracts with the Wilburn Brothers publishing company (Sure-Fire Music) and talent agency (Wil-Helm) respectively. With the benefit of membership in the Grand Ole Opry and inclusion in the weekly nationally syndicated television program The Wilburn Brothers Show (1960-1974), and with the assistance of the songwriting skills of Teddy Wilburn (who is rumored to have co-written many of her pieces, including "You Ain't Woman Enough" and "Don't Come Home A Drinkin"), Loretta soon became the number one female recording artist in country music.
Poet/children's author Shel Silverstein wrote Lynn's hit songs One's on the Way and Hey Loretta.
Loretta Lynn has also written two autobiographies, Coal Miner's Daughter and Still Woman Enough. The first was also made into a film starring Sissy Spacek as Loretta. By the time the movie was in production, Lynn had a falling-out with the Wilburn Brothers, centered around the breach of her performance contract with Wil-Helm, resulting in their omission from the script entirely (as opposed to the book).
Loretta Lynn was close friends with country music legend Patsy Cline, and was devastated by her death. Possibly as a strike back in her feud with the Wilburn Brothers, Loretta substituted Patsy Cline as her musical mentor in the film version of "Coal Miner's Daughter" for that of the Wilburns.
There was some speculation that Barbara Jean (portrayed by Ronee Blakley), the centerpiece character in the 1975 Robert Altman classic Nashville, was based at least in part on Lynn. When asked about the film (which ends in Barbara Jean being gunned down), Lynn reportedly joked that Nashville should be happy, because they'd been trying to kill her for years.
After her separation with the Wilburn Brothers, in the early 1970s, Loretta's career leveled off. Without Teddy Wilburn's adept musical tutelage, her string of hit recordings came to an end.
In the early 1980s Lynn experienced further personal and professional loss. Her music began to fall into a funk and she lost a son in a freak accident, and in 2005, a second son plead guilty to vehicular homicide for the DUI related death of his best friend. In addition Lynn's mother lost her battle with cancer.
In 1993 Loretta Lynn teamed up with fellow country legends Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette for the album Honky Tonk Angels. That same year, she lost her duet partner Conway Twitty, and in 1996 Loretta's husband Mooney lost his long battle with diabetes aged 69. A younger brother, Alan Webb, died of pancreatic cancer.
Loretta Lynn was a recipient of Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and was named "Artist of the Decade" for the 1970s by the Academy of Country Music.
In 2004, she made a comeback with the highly successful album Van Lear Rose, produced by and featuring the guitar playing of Jack White, reaching new audiences and new generations and even garnering airplay on rock radio.
At the end of 2004 it was announced that Loretta was nominated for five Grammy Awards including, Best Country Song ("Miss Being Mrs." and "Portland Oregon"), Best Country Album (Van Lear Rose), Best Country Collaboration with Vocals ("Portland Oregon" with Jack White), and Best Female Country Vocal Performance ("Miss Being Mrs.")
At the 2005 Grammys Loretta won for Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
She is one of only five solo women (others include Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, and Shania Twain), to win the Country Music Association's highest honor, "Entertainer Of The Year"
In her heyday, Lynn was no stranger to controversy. She had more banned songs than any other artist in the history of country music, including Rated X (about the double standards divorced women face), Wings Upon Your Horns (about the loss of teenage virginity), and most famously, The Pill (about a wife and mother becoming liberated via birth control).
Ironically, or perhaps purely conincidentally, another controversial female artist Courtney Love released an album in 2004 using Loretta Lynn's nickname - America's Sweetheart. It sold poorly.
A Republican, Lynn campaigned for Presidential nominee George Herbert Walker Bush, and made fun of Michael Dukakis' last name.
See a video of Loretta Lynn and Jack Black
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