Loretta Lynn, the acclaimed singer-songwriter whose rise from a small Kentucky coal-mining community to national country music stardom and whose tales of heartbreak and poverty are among the most celebrated in country music history, has died. She was 90 years old.

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Who was Loretta Lynn?

Loretta Webb Lynn was an American singer-songwriter who was born on April 14, 1932,  in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to Claire Marie Ramey Webb and Melvin Theodore Webb. She is one of 8 children and the eldest daughter. 

Lynn, being 15 years old, wed Oliver Vanetta Lynn on January 10, 1948. Only a month before, they had first met. When Loretta was seven months along in the first of their six pregnancies, the Lynns left Kentucky and relocated to the logging town of Custer, Washington. The joys and sorrows of her first few years of marriage would serve as inspiration for Lynn’s music.

Lynn released several gold albums during her six-decade career in country music. Based on her life, the film Coal Miner’s Daughter was made in 1980.

With themes concerning philandering husbands and persistent mistresses, Lynn concentrated on women’s difficulties. Her marital problems served as inspiration for her songwriting. By singing about birth control (The Pill), multiple pregnancies (One’s on the Way), gender inequality (Rated ‘X), and being widowed by the draught during the Vietnam War, she pushed the boundaries of the traditional country music genre (Dear Uncle Sam).

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In the late 1950s, Lynn began singing in local clubs. Later, she formed her own band, the Trailblazers, with her brother Jay Lee Webb. Lynn signed her first contract with Zero Records on February 2, 1960. The Lynns promoted the release to country radio stations across the country, while Grashey and Del Roy took the music to KFOX in Long Beach, California.

The song was a hit when the Lynns arrived in Nashville, reaching No. 14 on Billboard’s Country and Western chart, and Lynn began cutting demo records for the Wilburn Brothers Publishing Company. Lynn’s relationship with the Wilburn Brothers, as well as her appearances on the Grand Ole Opry beginning in 1960, aided her rise to the top of the female recording artist chart in country music.

Fist City, Lynn’s subsequent album, was released in 1968. The album’s other single, What Kind of a Girl (Do You Think I Am), peaked in the top 10 while the title tune, which was released as a single earlier that year, became Lynn’s second No. 1 success. The title track and You’ve Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me) from her subsequent studio album, Your Squaw Is on the Warpath, both reached the Top 5 Country Songs charts in 1968. In 1969, Lynn’s following hit, Woman of the World (Leave My World Alone), became her third number-one record. This was followed by another Top 10, To Make a Man (Feel Like a Man) became an instant classic.

Especially after the success of her autobiographical single Coal Miner’s Daughter, which reached at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1970, her career continued to be popular into the 1970s. Her debut single, the song peaked at No. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100. Between 1970 and 1975, she had a string of singles that peaked low on the Hot 100 list. The popular autobiography (1976) and Oscar-winning film with the same name were both inspired by the song Coal Miner’s Daughter.

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Lynn received numerous awards and other honours for her pioneering role in country music, including honours from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music as a duet partner and an individual artist. She was nominated for 18 GRAMMY Awards and won three of them.

Lynn is the most decorated female country recording artist of all time, as well as the only female ACM Artist of the Decade (1970s). Lynn had 24 number one singles and 11 number one albums. She ended her 57-year career on the road after suffering a stroke in 2017 and then breaking her hip in 2018.

Lynn has had a number of health issues over the years, including pneumonia on multiple occasions and a broken arm from a fall at home. Lynn missed a tribute to her from other women across the country in 2010 because she was recovering from knee surgery. Lynn suffered a stroke in May 2017 at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. She was taken to a Nashville hospital and had to cancel all of her upcoming tour dates as a result. Lynn fell on January 1, 2018, and broke her hip. She has not toured or performed on the Grand Ole Opry since 2017. Lynn died at her home in Hurricane Mills.