Country music icon and representative of rural resiliency Loretta Lynn passes away aged 90

Lynn, who had singles like “Fist City” and “The Pill,” was a symbol of women’s emancipation.

At age 90, Loretta Lynn passed away. Her songs about heartbreak and poverty are among the most renowned in the history of country music.

On October 4, Lynn passed away at home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, according to her relatives.

She topped the US country charts 16 times starting with 1966’s Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind), and she was nominated for 18 Grammy awards, winning three of them. In total, she produced 60 studio albums.

Her hallmark song, 1970’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, was inspired by the fact that she was the daughter of a coal miner and was born Loretta Webb in a one-room rural Kentucky cabin in 1932. Lynn had eight siblings.

A month after meeting Oliver Lynn, she got married to him at the age of 15. Oliver struggled with alcoholism and committed repeated adultery, yet the couple remained married for 48 years until Oliver’s death in 1996. Three of their six children were born before Lynn was 20.

As a housewife in Washington state, Lynn formed Loretta and the Trailblazers with her brother Jay Lee after Oliver gave her a guitar as an anniversary gift in 1953. In 1960, she started creating her own songs and released I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl as her first single.

Loretta Lynn
Lynn, who had singles like “Fist City” and “The Pill,” was a symbol of women’s emancipation.

She and Oliver tenaciously promoted the record themselves by driving from one country radio station to another when it was published on a small independent label. We spent three months on the road, she later said, “sleeping in the car and eating baloney and cheese sandwiches in the parks because we were too poor to stay in motels.” The success of the song—which made it to the country’s Top 20—led to Decca, a big label, signing her.

I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl, whose subject matter is a woman devastated by a breakup, was inspired by the tale of a person Lynn met and befriended. Lynn’s songs frequently represented broken hearts or unhealthy relationships, and frequently featured combative heroines. Her second No. 1, Fist City, was a warning to other women not to approach her husband, while Rated X, a country chart-topper, tackled the shame of divorce; 1975’s The Pill, with its contentious, forthright embrace of birth control, moved over into the pop charts.

Between 1964 and 1976, she maintained a high release frequency, releasing two to four albums a year on average. Along with her solo albums, she collaborated with other country music greats, including Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette for the 1993 album Honky Tonk Angels, and Conway Twitty, with whom she recorded 10 duet albums. She had a friendship with Patsy Cline and collaborated on recordings with kd lang. After Cline died in a plane crash in 1963, she recorded an album in her honor.

After slowing down in the middle of the 1980s, Lynn experienced a high-profile comeback in 2004 with the publication of the Jack White-produced album Van Lear Rose. Her highest-charting album ever, Full Circle, released in 2016, which included duets with Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello, followed her best-performing record to that point in the US charts, which became her best-performing album overall. Wouldn’t It Be Great, her most recent album, was released in 2018?

Her 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was a bestseller, and the same-named film was based on her life. Sissy Spacek played Lynn in the film, which received seven Oscar nominations and won the best actress for Spacek’s work.

Four of Lynn’s six children—Clara, Ernest, Peggy, and Patsy—remain alive today.