Loretta Lynn, the coal miner’s daughter whose decades of singing, songwriting, recording and touring made her “the undisputed Queen of Country Music,” died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, her family has announced. She was 90 years old.
“Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home in her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” the family said in a statement given to The Associated Press, requesting privacy and saying a memorial will be announced in the coming days.
Born April 14, 1932 in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, Lynn was a self-taught guitarist and songwriter who was already a mother of four by the time she became a Nashville fixture in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Her songwriting drew from her own experiences as a wife, mother and, of course, Coal Miner’s Daughter, as on her all-timer of a 1971 album. Its title track, “Fist City” and “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” were just three of the 16 (!) #1 country singles she released.
As Paste contributor Jason Scott wrote in 2017:
Over the course of 41 solo albums and 11 joint projects with Conway Twitty, Lynn’s music seems to embody the American spirit. Her songbook traces the drudgery of routine, punctuated with tragedy and miseries of the heart. Her penmanship is always rooted in her own personal truths, and that often comes with daring, insightful takedowns of taboo topics—from themes of a woman’s right to govern her own body to alcoholism and betrayal. Still, the thread of plucky wholesomeness runs throughout her entire career.
Across her 50+ years in music, Lynn would become one of the most awarded artists of all time, and would be inducted into more musical Halls of Fame—including The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame—than any other female recording artist. In 1972, she became the first woman to be named the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year. She received Kennedy Center Honors in 2003, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 and Billboard’s inaugural Women in Music “Legend” Award in 2015. She won three Grammys, with a whopping 18 nominations, and sold upwards of 45 million records worldwide. Her autobiographies, Coal Miner’s Daughter and Still Woman Enough, were published in 1976 and 2002, respectively; the former was adapted into a 1980 film of the same name, starring Sissy Spacek in an Oscar-winning turn as Lynn.
Lynn had just celebrated her 90th birthday in April, where friends and peers including including Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Brandi Carlile, Carole King, Martina McBride, Tanya Tucker and Ashley McBryde had paid tribute to the artist.
“For generations of fans, Loretta Lynn is the heart and soul of American country music, the woman who showed us the untapped possibilities of the genre through the genius and direct perspectives of her songs and the integrity of her performances,” said Richard Story, President, Commercial Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, in a statement at the time. “Please join me and everyone in the Sony family in wishing Loretta the happiest of birthdays along with a deep appreciation for all the magic, truth and beauty she’s shown us through her music over the years.”
“As a little girl, I could never have imagined that I’d write books and wear dresses that would wind up in the Smithsonian,” said Lynn at the time. “These are the kinds of things that make me realize what an amazing life I’ve been given and grateful for what I’m able to share with the world.”
Hear a 1981 Lynn performance from the Paste archives below, and revisit 10 of her best songs here.