Classic country singer Loretta Lynn has had a professional music career for almost 60 years. The singer-songwriter is the most awarded female recording artist in the country category and the only female that’s been awarded the ACM Artist of the Decade. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, she had over 70 hits as both a solo artist and doing duets. And yet the influential musician has not yet been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Loretta first taught herself to play the guitar in 1953 and started her own band called Loretta and the Trailblazers. By 1960 she had released her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” By 1967 she had her first number one hit, which would be just the first of 16 number ones over her career that includes”Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Fist City,” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
While Loretta seemed to have a pretty natural progression in the music business, she also took a very active role in her success. After the early release of “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Loretta and her husband sent out thousands of copies of the song to radio stations as well as made personal visits to try and get some air time. After the song started gaining popularity it got the attention of the Wilburn Brothers, who encouraged Loretta to move to Nashville to further pursue her career. She took their advice and a couple years later started landing consistently in the top tens.
Loretta made quite a splash in the music industry because of her commitment to telling an honest story through her music, particularly from the perspective of a strong and independent woman. Those stories were not always as conservative as the country music world was comfortable with, but she didn’t let the controversy slow her down. She frequently used her own relationships as inspiration to sing about things like cheating, birth control, and being widowed. Occasionally this meant getting songs banned from radio stations.
Most people are familiar with Loretta’s hit “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which later became the name of her 1976 autobiography, and then was turned into the Oscar-winning film by the same name. The story details Loretta’s experience growing up as a coal minors daughter in rural Kentucky, her marriage at the age of 13, having her own family, and the massive music career that was to follow.
The success of the film and the popularity of stars Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones made Loretta a household name for those who weren’t already familiar with her honky-tonk sound. She has never stopped making music, although in the mid 1980’s Loretta slowed down on the recording and focused more on performing. She picked it back up in the 2000’s and in her expansive career has released over 55 albums.
Loretta was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983, inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1988, inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, and in 2013 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.