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Loretta Lynn

Claire Stephens | Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Valentine’s weekend Loretta Lynn brings a bit of country music to South Bend. After touring through Kansas City and Des Moines on the Friday and Saturday, Lynn performs this Sunday at the Morris Performing Arts Center before continuing her tour to New England, the South and the West throughout the spring.

Lynn’s impressive discography spans from her first album “Loretta Lynn Sings” in 1963 to her most recent album, “Van Lear Rose” in 2004 — produced by Jack White of The White Stripes — for which she won several Grammy Awards. Recently Sony Music Nashville presented Lynn with her own rose; an ever-blooming floribunda hybrid entitled the “Loretta Lynn Van Lear.”

With 54 studio albums, 88 singles, 23 No. 1 singles and 15 compilation albums, Lynn’s music has had a powerful presence for country, pop and rock fans for half a century.

More than just Lynn’s music has been famous, however; her autobiography, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was made into an award-winning film with the same title in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.

Her famous life story starts humbly in Butcher Holler, Ky., during the Depression as one of eight children. Lynn married Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn when she was 14 and was already a mother of four when she learned to play guitar and began singing seriously. Zero Records was started by Norm Burley just to record her after she was spotted at a talent contest.

She and her husband traveled cross-country pushing her first Zero Records release “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” which become a minor hit when she reached Nashville. Lynn’s musical influences included “girl-singer” Kitty Wells and the distinctive style of Patsy Cline.

Lynn’s music not only reflected her hometown and upbringing, but a strong female point of view as well. Some of her singles that presented the strong woman character unafraid to stand up for herself include “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” “Don’t Come Home a’Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” and “Fist City.” Her songs tell the story of women in their everyday lives, covering motherhood, marriage, sexuality and divorce. Lynn and her music advocates for the ordinary woman, particularly in blue-collar and working-class roles.

Lynn refused to avoid controversy by writing her first song in 1966, “Dear Uncle Sam,” one of the first songs to mention the human costs of the Vietnam War. Similarly, “The Pill” was banned by many radio stations in its time for its message of how birth control gives women the freedom to love without the fear of pregnancy.

Starting the 1970s with three albums in one year (“Wings Up Your Horns,” “Loretta Lynn Writes ‘em and Sings ‘em” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter”) Lynn went on to win a second Best Female Vocalist Award from the Country Music Association and was the first woman to win the title of Entertainer of the Year in 1972. She also appeared on the cover of Newsweek the next year and wrote her autobiography, a New York Times Bestseller, in 1976.

Though Lynn spent much of the 1990s out of the public spotlight caring for her sick husband and grieving his loss in 1996, Lynn’s newest album “Van Lear Rose” helped bring her influence to a new generation of 21st century fans. The 2010 release of “Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn” includes covers of her songs by Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Sheryl Crow and Paramore.

Tickets for Lynn’s concert went on sale Dec. 18 at the Morris Box Office, Super Sounds in Goshen, Hammes Bookstore in South Bend, Eddy Street Commons and Karma Records in Plymouth & Warsaw, with a limit of eight tickets per person.

All biography, discography, tour, and news information about Lynn can be found at her website, LorettaLynn.com.

Contact Claire Stephens at cstephe4@nd.edu