The Heartbreaking Death Of Loretta Lynn

Country music icon Loretta Lynn has died at the age of 90, via the Washington Post. In a statement to the Associated Press, Lynn's family said: "Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home in her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills."

Loretta Lynn was born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky in 1932 in a coal miner's shack, one of eight children. In her youth, she sang in church and at local events, where she was noticed for her vocal talent (via Biography). At the age of 15 (or 14, depending on the source), she married 21-year-old Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, aka Doo, via Country Music Hall of Fame. Following their marriage, the couple moved to Custer, Washington where they started a family (via Lynnwood Today).

Loretta Lynn enters the country music scene

After a decade of motherhood, Loretta Lynn began performing her own songs, singing in local clubs. In 1960, at the age of 28, Lynn signed a contract with Zero Records and released her first song titled "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Lynn and her husband relentlessly promoted the single. Their payoff would be a song that hit No. 14 on the country music charts. Lynn's distinctive voice attracted the attention of the Wilburn Brothers, who asked her to tour with them. She and her family would move to Nashville shortly thereafter (via PBS). 

Lynn recalled the tough times she and her husband experienced as they tried to get her career off of the ground. "And I walked in one station and there was my record down in the garbage can. The deejay said, 'I don't know. I've never heard you sing.' And 'I don't know if this record's any good or not.' And I told him, I said, 'Well, like you probably won't ever find out 'cause it's laying in the garbage can!'" (via PBS).

Backed by her brother Jay, Loretta took Music City by storm, earning a contract as a Decca recording artist and a spot on the "Grand Ole Opry" (via Country Music Hall of Fame).

Loretta Lynn broke barriers

Loretta Lynn became one of country music's biggest stars rather quickly thereafter. However, Lynn's personal life was being turned upside down. Her husband Doo began drinking and physically and emotionally abused her. Her songs "Fist City" and "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)" were inspired by Doo's infidelity and drinking (via Britannica). She wrote in her 2002 memoir, "Still Woman Enough," how her husband cheated on her regularly, once leaving her while she was giving birth. Lynn and her husband also fought frequently. She wrote, "He never hit me one time that I didn't hit him back twice" (via The Boot).

The themes of country music were male-dominated prior to Lynn's rise to the top. They spoke of the American West, hard work, and love for one's country. Female performers were expected to conform to this dynamic, often as a man's sidekick. Lynn broke down those barriers with her heartbreaking songs that spoke of real emotions. In 1967, the Country Music Association recognized the new importance of women singers by giving Lynn its first-ever award for Female Vocalist of the Year (via The Boot). In 1964, Decca released the first record she wrote herself titled "Wine, Women, and Song," which warned a man that he could not get away with his continued cheating ways.

She spoke up for women's rights

One of Loretta Lynn's most controversial and celebrated songs was her 1975 tune titled "The Pill." It was so risque at the time that her record company waited two years to release it. "The Pill" celebrated birth control and the freedom it offered to married women who did not want or could not afford another baby. "My mama's just sorry she didn't have the pill so she wouldn't have had eight of us to feed," said Lynn of the feminist tune to People Magazine.

"It's just a wife arguin' with her husband," she said. "The wife is sayin', 'You've kept me barefoot and pregnant all these years while you've been slippin' around. Now you straighten out or I'll start, now that I have the pill.'" She later elaborated on the message of the song, saying that the story is that of a husband and wife, not two unmarried people so that wasn't "dirty" (via People Magazine). 

Her 1970 hit song "Coal Miner's Daughter" was a huge hit. Her 1976 autobiography of the same name inspired the 1980 film starring Sissy Spacek as Lynn, per Country Music Hall of Fame.

Loretta Lynn won numerous awards

Loretta Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988, per her website. Following the death of husband Doo in 1996, she was "lost in a fog for more than a year." But the singer released "Still Country" in 2000 and even hit the concert trail again. "It's a good thing, too," she said. "Because if I hadn't, I would have been nuts by now. I would have been completely nuts." The Kennedy Center honored her in 2003, and 2004 saw her win two Grammys. Lynn also received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. 

Over the course of her 60 years in the business, Lynn sold more than 45 million records. In addition to that, she scored 24 No. 1 singles (via Wide Open Country). She is survived by her children Patsy, Peggy, Cissy, and Ernest Ray. Son Jack Benny Lynn died in 1984 at the age of 34 on the family's property (via Country Thang Daily). In 2013, daughter and eldest child Betty Sue, age 64, died from complications from emphysema (via Wide Open Country).