At first, Loretta Lynn didn’t want to sing into the microphone.
Thousands of fans gathered last week in Nashville for an hours-long birthday tribute dedicated to the country music legend. It was Lynn’s first public appearance after recuperating from a stroke in 2017 and a broken hip the following year. Lynn turns 87 this weekend.
Lynn joined her friends and family on stage at the end of the night as they performed her signature song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
Her sister, artist Crystal Gayle, encouraged Lynn to sing along into the mic, but she declined. Moments later, Lynn changed her mind.
“Let me have that damn mic,” she could be heard saying as she reached for the microphone. People cheered when she joined in and sang the song the rest of the way.
Lynn’s discography is filled with personal songs about her life in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, and her shoot-from-the-hip songwriting wasn’t afraid to cover certain topics. Her 1975 ode to birth control, “The Pill,” was an ode to birth control was banned by several country music stations at the time. She brought fed-up energy to several songs that were directed at men — and women, like in 1966’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man).”
Loretta Lynn tells the NewsHour on what components make a good song. Video by Jason Kane/PBS NewsHour
Lynn told the PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown that the key to writing a good song is having “the heart and soul of a person that’s writing it,” adding that it’s not necessarily simple. “It’s hard on the writer,” she said.
“I used to lock myself up, shut myself in a room before I would get through with a song,” she said, “I wouldn’t come until I got it wrote.”
When asked how she would know it was done, Lynn said, “Well, I would know when I had it done. If you don’t know when you have it done, you shouldn’t be writing.”
Gayle, Lynn’s sister, spoke of how she spent time with her sister on the road, telling the NewsHour that it was like being on a summer vacation.
When she looks back on those days, “and I was in the back of her bus, and she’s writing music, and we’re singing, and she said, “No, sing it this way.” And I’d try it that way, and she’d say, “No, let’s try another way.”
“She was helping me learn my voice,” Gayle said.
Friday on the PBS NewsHour, Loretta Lynn sits down with Jeffrey Brown for an interview. Check your local listings for the time.