NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Loretta Lynn, country music's fearless and beloved coal miner's daughter who was unyielding in her support of women, has died.
Lynn's family confirmed to CMT she died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Lynn was 90 years old.
"Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home at her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills," the statement said.
As a songwriter, she crafted a persona of a defiantly tough woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers. The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote fearlessly about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce, and birth control and sometimes got in trouble with radio programmers for material from which even rock performers once shied away.
Her biggest hits came in the 1960s and '70s, including "Coal Miner's Daughter," "You Ain't Woman Enough," "The Pill," "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," "Rated X" and "You're Looking at Country."
In "Fist City," Lynn threatens a hair-pulling fistfight if another woman won't stay away from her man: "I'm here to tell you, gal, to lay off of my man/If you don't want to go to Fist City." That strong-willed but traditional country woman reappears in other Lynn songs. In "The Pill," a song about sex and birth control, Lynn writes about how she's sick of being trapped at home to take care of babies: "The feelin' good comes easy now/Since I've got the pill," she sang.
She was the first woman named Entertainer of the Year at the genre's two major awards shows, first by the Country Music Association in 1972 and then by the Academy of Country Music three years later.
"It was what I wanted to hear and what I knew other women wanted to hear, too," Lynn told the AP in 2016. "I didn't write for the men; I wrote for us women. And the men loved it, too."
Lynn's journey to beloved country music icon began when she was born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. She was one of eight children in a poor, hardworking Eastern Kentucky coal miner family.
"I was singing when I was born, I think," she told the AP in 2016. "Daddy used to come out on the porch where I would be singing and rocking the babies to sleep. He'd say, 'Loretta, shut that big mouth. People all over this holler can hear you.' And I said, 'Daddy, what difference does it make? They are all my cousins.'"
She married Oliver V. ("Mooney" or "Doolittle") Lynn, a returned World War II veteran, shortly before her 16th birthday and was a mother of four by 22. She wove her Appalachia upbringing into her songs that deeply resonated in the genre for generations.
Living in the state of Washington during the 1950s, Lynn was a full-time mother and part-time singer whose musical interests were very much encouraged by Mooney. In 1960, she signed a contract with Zero Records, a company based in Vancouver, Canada, after the label's owner heard her singing on a Tacoma, Washington, television station.
From a first recording session in Los Angeles, that year came "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Plugged by the ambitious couple on a shoestring budget during their now-famous cross-country trip, the record got airplay and peaked that fall at No. 14 on Billboard's country singles chart. The single's success led to her first Grand Ole Opry appearance on Sept. 17, 1960.
Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, who were enjoying success as Wilburn Brothers, were impressed enough with her talent and potential to take on the direction and management of her career. Shortly after that, Lynn was featured nationally on their syndicated TV shows and extensive tours.
The duo convinced their producer, Decca Records executive Owen Bradley, to sign her away from Zero. However, her earliest hits for Decca were generally written by others: "Success," "Wine Women and Song," "Happy Birthday," "Before I'm Over You" and even "Blue Kentucky Girl" (composed by the prolific Betty Sue Perry).
In 1969, she released her autobiographical "Coal Miner's Daughter," which helped her reach her widest audience. The song was the title of her 1976 autobiography (co-written with George Vecsey). That book provided the basis for the famous film starring Sissy Spacek (who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lynn) and Tommy Lee Jones. Her late father was lionized again in 1974's "They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy."
"We were poor but we had love/That's the one thing Daddy made sure of/He shoveled coal to make a poor man's dollar," she sang in "Coal Miner's Daughter."
Developing as a songwriter, Lynn poured her life story into song after song. Often it was Mooney's drinking and womanizing -- and Lynn's own flagging tolerance for it -- which made for her best work: "Fist City," "You Ain't Women Enough (To Take My Man)," "Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone)," "You've Just Stepped In (From Steppin' Out on Me)," "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," and even the much later "Lyin', Cheatin', Woman Chasin', Honky Tonkin', Whiskey Drinkin' You."
Besides her great solo success, Lynn helped pioneer the male-female duet trend in the mid-1960s with a series of recordings made with her childhood idol and Decca labelmate Ernest Tubb. The same formula worked even better with Conway Twitty. Between 1971 and 1981, they made several albums and released a string of 14 singles which all made the Top 10 -- starting with five straight No. 1 releases ("After the Fire Is Gone," "Lead Me On," "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man," "As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone" and "Feelins'.")
In addition to becoming the first woman to win the Country Music Association's coveted Entertainer of the Year award, the CMA also honored her as female vocalist of the year in 1967, 1972 and 1973, and she and Conway Twitty shared the vocal duo honor each year between 1972 and 1975. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. She joined fellow legends Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton for Honky Tonk Angels, an album released in 1993 by Columbia Records.
The Academy of Country Music chose her as the artist of the decade for the 1970s, and she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
She moved to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, in the 1990s, where she set up a ranch complete with a replica of her childhood home and a museum that is a popular roadside tourist stop. The dresses she was known for wearing are there, too.
Mooney's death in 1996 sent her into a prolonged grief and depression, one fruit of which was a second and darker autobiography, Still Woman Enough: A Memoir, written with Patsi Bale Cox. In the 2002 memoir, Lynn had more to say about her husband's cruelty, her drug problems and the fact that she had seriously contemplated divorce. A nostalgic cookbook followed in 2004, "You're Cookin' It Country: My Favorite Recipes and Memories."
A new duet partnership -- the unlikeliest of all – occurred in 2004 when she teamed with alternative rocker Jack White of the White Stripes for "Portland, Oregon." The track was featured on Van Lear Rose, the Interscope Records album White produced for her. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, Lynn and White shared honors for best country vocal collaboration and best country album to mark her first Grammys in more than 30 years. She was awarded CMT's Johnny Cash Video Visionary Award that same year.
The 2012 book "Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics" gathered some of Lynn's most recognizable material. However, her activities were severely curtailed after she suffered a stroke that year. Yet she continued to make occasional appearances. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013) and accepted the ACM Crystal Milestone Award in 2015 from Miranda Lambert at the Ryman Auditorium.
She inducted Alan Jackson into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017. A year later, Spacek accepted Lynn's award as CMT's Artist of a Lifetime.
Lynn knew her songs were trailblazing, especially for country music, but she was just writing the truth that so many rural women like her experienced.
"I could see that other women was goin' through the same thing, 'cause I worked the clubs. I wasn't the only one that was livin' that life, and I'm not the only one that's gonna be livin' today what I'm writin'," she told The AP in 1995.
Many of her late-career recordings with producer John Carter Cash emerged as well. Lynn's 2016 "Full Circle" album received a Grammy nomination. So did her 2018 track, "Wouldn't It Be Great," from an album of the same name. Her life story was retold in an episode of PBS' series American Masters titled Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl. In addition, she served as a pivotal figure in Ken Burns' monumental 2019 documentary, Country Music. Loretta's friendship with another pioneering country legend, Patsy Cline, was brought back into the spotlight in 2020 with a new memoir by Lynn and a TV movie recounting their brief time together. To coincide with those releases, Lynn offered a newly-recorded version of Cline's "I Fall to Pieces."
She and her husband were married nearly 50 years before he died in 1996. They had six children: Betty, Jack, Ernest and Clara, and then twins Patsy and Peggy. She had 17 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.
The family has asked for privacy while they grieve and said an announcement on arrangements would be forthcoming.