The Definitive Collection

Lynn, Loretta

album cover

The teachings of the Church of Loretta: Respect women. Know exactly what you're doing in a moment of cheating flirtation. Don't demonize women who've gone through divorce. Take good care of the kids, even if you don't talk about 'em much. Most of all, love each other.

These and other lessons await in the plainspoken songs of Loretta Lynn, the singer who rose from poverty in a Kentucky coal town to become a country music legend. Most well known for her autobiographical song "Coal Miner's Daughter" (which spawned an autobiography and a feature film), Lynn is the first country feminist and one of the genre's great champions of ordinary people. She came along at a time when country lyrics were obsessively coy and offered a take-no-crap alternative—her blunt lyrics cut to the chase about those who sneak around. One of her big hits, "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)," offers a withering appraisal of a floozy, while "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)" takes an equally scornful view of a hard-partying man.

Lynn lived a full life before her recording career got started. The second of eight children, she's part Cherokee and grew up on land that was traversed in the forced migration of Native Americans known as the "Trail of Tears." She was married a few months before her fourteenth birthday, and gave birth to four children in rapid succession—she became a grandmother by age twenty-nine. Her family moved to Nashville in the early '60s, and with help from Patsy Cline's producer Owen Bradley, Lynn's career took off in 1964 (when she was twenty-nine) with three Top 10 hits, including an indelible cover of "Blue kentucky Girl." From there, she went on a tear, recording a series of megahits (she was the first woman to register fifty Top 10 singles) that sometimes landed her in hot water. Several of her original songs—"Rated X" and "The Pill"—were banned by country radio stations, but as Lynn observes in the liner notes of this anthology, the attention didn't exactly hurt: "They went to number 1 and sold more than the others."

This one-disc career overview contains most of Lynn's best-known songs and several of her ripped-from-real-life duets with Conway Twitty. Every one tells of some trying situation or reveals some dimension of character, some lesson Lynn picked up just living day to day. She shares them with you like a sympathetic big sister, so you don't make the same mistakes she did.

Genre: Country
Released: 2005, MCA
Key Tracks: "Blue Kentucky Girl," "Rated X," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)."
Catalog Choice: Van Lear Rose (produced by Jack White of the White Stripes).
Next Stop: Conway Twitty: She Needs Someone to Hold Her
After That: Reba McEntire: My Kind of Country.
Book Pages: 459–460

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