Country Music Hall of Fame member Loretta Lynn has chronicled the last 35 years of her life in a newly-published second memoir, Still Woman Enough (Hyperion).
Concentrating on her 48-year marriage to her late husband, Mooney Doolittle “Doo” Lynn, the book reads partly like a stereotypical country song, with candid details about cheating and fighting.
“If you don’t love someone, don’t marry them,” Lynn told CMT.com prior to a book signing Friday (April 19) at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
“There were some times that he done some stuff that I could have left him for, but I had six kids, and how can you leave little hearts laying all over the floor when they loved both of us?” Lynn wonders. The couple married when she was 13 years old. Lynn had four children by the time she was 18.
Written with author Patsi Bale Cox, Still Woman Enough continues the folksy narrative begun in Lynn’s first autobiography, the best-selling Coal Miner’s Daughter. The new book also goes back to fill in some details about Lynn’s early life and takes issue with a few details in the popular movie based on Coal Miner’s Daughter.
To support the new book, Lynn has made the rounds of book signings and interviews, but a recent bout of bacterial pneumonia sidelined her for several weeks in February, causing her to miss her induction into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and the presentation of an honorary doctorate by the University of Kentucky.
“I was so sick, I didn’t even realize it,” Lynn recalls, “and the doctor said that for seven days that he prayed because he knew I was going to die, and he didn’t want to see it going across the television screen: ‘Loretta’s doctors killed her.’”
In addition to the promotional rounds for her new book, the sixth-grade graduate says she has written 17 songs for a forthcoming album, also to be titled Still Woman Enough. She’s having her own recording studio built at her farm in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., and she already is thinking about writing another book. She jokes that it will be called It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Fat Lady Sings.
While Lynn’s new book tells of the domestic abuse she suffered, she also describes a fight she instigated herself, when her drunken husband returned home after breaking his promise to take her out for the night.
“I was really hurt, and he reached out and took hold of one of my pin curls and pulled my hair,” Lynn remembers. “I was going to hit him on the shoulder, but I hit him in the mouth and knocked out two teeth … and I heard teeth going peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, and I thought, ‘My God. How many teeth did I knock out?’”
Still, the CMA’s first female entertainer of the year (1972) credits the love of her life with taking her from her home in poverty-entrenched Butcher Holler, Ky., to the heights of country music stardom.
“I have to give him credit for everything,” Lynn says. “I was so bashful and backward [that] he had to push me on stage when I first started.”
In other stories, Lynn tells about her attempt to counter Doo’s womanizing with a staged “date” with her tour partner, singer Cal Smith; about her encounter with a flirtatious female fan; and about various drunken brawls among family members during dysfunctional family holidays.
She also recalls the moments she spent at the deathbed of her “best male friend” and duet partner, Conway Twitty, and the agonizing pain she suffered when her eldest son, Jack, died from drowning. To this day, the country music legend suspects foul play.
“I later learned that there was some bad folks wanting to use some of our property for something to do with drugs,” Lynn writes in her book. “Them folks killed my baby boy.”
Near the end of Lynn’s tale of survival, she admits she has released herself from the guilt she felt from blaming herself for “the cheatin’, the fightin’, and the drinkin’.” By forgiving herself, she says, she was able to forgive her husband.