At the start of October, country singer Loretta Lynn passed away at the grand old age of 90. This icon and trailblazer left behind one of the greatest legacies in country music history.
Lynn is one of the most decorated musical artists of all time. But her influence stretches far beyond the awards she’s received. Before feminism had gone mainstream, Lynn’s music spoke to real issues women were facing.
Impact on Feminism
Her first hit song, “Don’t Come Home A-drinking,” was contentious upon its release in 1966. The track tells the story of a woman who turns down sex with her drunk husband. Today it is considered one of the greatest country songs ever.
In the early 1970s, Lynn went one step further with “Rated X”. The song deals with the negative treatment of divorced women in American society.
But 1975s “The Pill” truly made her a spokeswoman for women’s rights. It was the first song ever to openly discuss birth control. Because of its taboo subject matter, some radio stations refused to play it. To this day, it remains Lynn’s most controversial recording.
These pioneering works made it possible for later artists like Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to make their mark. It’s hard to imagine “I Feel Like a Woman” without Loretta Lynn. Her celebration of womanhood paved the way for all female artists who followed in her footsteps.
This includes Taylor Swift, who had her start in Nashville as a country pop artist. Men in rhinestone suits had always dominated Nashville. Loretta Lynn, however, made it easier for women like Swift to enter this male-dominated world and get their music heard.
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Apart from championing women’s issues, Lynn was also a hero to the working class. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” tells of the hardships she faced growing up in rural Kentucky during the Great Depression.
In 1980, a movie of the same name was released starring Sissy Spacek as Lynn. Tommy Lee Jones played her hard-drinking husband Doolittle Lynn. When Spacek won the Oscar for Best Actress at the 53rd Academy Awards, Lorretta Lynn became a household name.
Although she was a massive star, Lynn never forgot her working-class roots. In her autobiography, she tells of how women came up to her after shows to talk to her. “They felt I had the answers to their problems because my life was just like theirs,” she writes.
Tributes to the Queen of Country
Lynn’s impact on popular culture is evident by the tributes she received after her death. Dolly Parton said of Lynn, “we’ve been like sisters all the years we’ve been in Nashville and she was a wonderful human being, wonderful talent, had millions of fans and I’m one of them.”
Jack White of the White Stripes, with whom Lynn recorded her 2004 album, Van Lear Rose, called her “the greatest female singer-songwriter of the 20th century.”
Loretta Lynn will be missed, but her contribution to American culture will live on forever.