When visitors see the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new exhibit, Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl, they’re lookin’ at country.
The new exhibit in downtown Nashville chronicles Lynn’s rise to worldwide fame and recognition from her childhood in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Among the artifacts on display are several trophies from the CMA, ACM and the Recording Academy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom that former President Barack Obama presented to Lynn in 2013, the gown she wore on the cover of her Grammy-winning album Van Lear Rose, a 1967 handwritten fan letter from Ernest Tubb, handwritten lyrics for “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Your Squaw Is on the Warpath” and the first recording contract Lynn signed with Zero Records in 1960.
The Hall of Fame hosted an invitation-only preview of the new exhibit on Tuesday (Aug. 22) that was accompanied by an elegant seated dinner, acoustic performances by Margo Price and Brandy Clark, as well as remarks by Kacey Musgraves, museum director Kyle Young and Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn. Price and Clark sang “Fist City” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” respectively, while guests noshed on hand-carved roasted chicken, fresh greens and other delicacies.
Musgraves delivered a four-minute foreword summing up Lynn’s significant contributions that paved the way for artists like her.
“When I think about the comments, reactions and situations that I’ve been exposed to as a female artist in modern day country music, I can only begin to imagine the odyssey that she put on herself,” Musgraves said.
“Songs like Loretta’s will stand the test of time because at the core, they are all of us, and we all crave to be heard,” she said. “When I think about Loretta’s journey, it’s even more impressive to me that back then, there was zero formula.
“There was no norm for an outspoken artist, who just happened to also be a poor young mother of four. There was no norm for songwriter-guitar players. There was no norm for women in general. Let’s face it: There were no iTunes, no cell phones, no auto tune, no social media, no YouTube, no reality TV shows promising stardom [and] no instant gratification — just pure grit, aligned stars, unique perspective and good ole fashioned talent. I found myself thinking in many situations, ’What about Loretta? What would she do? What would she have done?’
“She definitely wouldn’t have shied away from loudly representing real things that she and many others were dealing with daily no matter the repercussions.”
The crowd applauded when Musgraves went on to say that safe business decisions in the entertainment industry keep future generations of trailblazers like Lynn from being heard.
“When anyone in the music business — label heads, radio promotion teams, artists, managers, media [and] songwriters — choose to stay within known successful lanes, avoiding creative risks and watering down content for easy consumption in hopes of financial gain,” she said, “they’re not only damaging themselves, they’re definitely damaging the rest of us, too.
“Imagine how many little girls or boys shining diamonds like Loretta sit in their rooms, observing the world around them, learning from their parents’ mistakes and spilling their songs into notebooks, waiting to be plucked out of their subdivisions to become someone that we’re going to herald as the one who broke the mold, who established the new normal,” she said. “I can’t wait to see who’s going to emerge. But for now, I’ll cherish the memories and moments that I’ve been wildly fortunate enough to share with Ms. Loretta, and I’m going to keep her voice very loud in my head and in my ears, listening to the one who is never going to be replaced.”
Lynn suffered a stroke in May and was unable to attend Tuesday’s preview. Her daughter Patsy spoke on her behalf.
“I know everybody is asking about my mom and wondering what’s going on,” Patsy said. “My mom had a stroke May 5, and it was so devastating for all of us because she’s such a strong woman. Believe it or not, she’s still that strong woman.”
Patsy mentioned that earlier on Tuesday, representatives of her mother’s record label, Sony Legacy, visited the family estate in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, to discuss the 2018 release of her next album.
“Nothing’s going to bring her down,” Patsy said. “She’s doing so well and my mom doesn’t do anything without doing it 100 percent. That’s what she believes: If you don’t give it 100 percent, it’s not worth doing. When she came into this business, she said, ’You have to be first, great or different.’ I think my mom is all of those things.”
Before wrapping her portion of the program, Patsy relayed a message from her mother for everyone in attendance: “Tell everybody I love them, and I will be back to see everybody.”
Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl opens Friday (Aug. 25) and runs through Aug. 5, 2018 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Enjoy photos from Tuesday’s preview: