Loretta Lynn, Country Music Star and Symbol of Rural Resilience, Dies at 90

Loretta Lynn, Country Music Star and Symbol of Rural Resilience, Dies at 90

Mr. Lynn went on to manage his wife’s career, insisting that she perform in honky-tonks and at radio stations even before she was convinced of her musical gifts. Ms. Lynn’s dependence on her husband made him as much a father figure as a spouse to her, even though he was less than six years her senior. He used the term “spanking” to describe the times he hit her. It was not until the couple moved to Nashville in the early 1960s, and Ms. Lynn befriended Patsy Cline there, that she began to stand up to her husband.

“After I met Patsy, life got better for me because I fought back,” Ms. Lynn told Nashville Scene. “Before that, I just took it. I had to. I was 3,000 miles away from my mom and dad and had four little kids. There wasn’t nothin’ I could do about it. But later on, I started speakin’ my mind when things weren’t right.”

Ms. Lynn’s growing assertiveness coincided with the first stirrings of the modern women’s movement. She rejected the feminist tag in interviews, but many of her songs, including the 1978 hit “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” were fiery expressions of female resolve. In that song she blood:

Well, I don’t want a wall to paint, but I’m a-gonna have my say.

From now on, lover-boy, it’s 50-50, all the way.

Up to now I’ve been an object made for pleasin’ you.

Times have changed and I’m demanding satisfaction too.

Ms. Lynn’s sexual politics had already taken an emphatic turn with “The Pill” (1975), a riotous celebration of reproductive freedom written by Lorene Allen, Don McHan and TD Bayless. Outspoken records like that and “Rated X,” about the double standards facing divorced women, might not have been as popular with country music’s conservative-leaning audience had they not been tempered by Ms. Lynn’s playful way with a lyric. In “Rated X,” a No. 1 country hit in 1972, she wrote, “The women all look at you like you’re bad, and the men all hope you are.”

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