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Lynn as Lyricist and Songwriter


In this film excerpt from Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl, Sheryl Crow and Jack White talk about Loretta Lynn’s talent as a lyricist and songwriter, and Reba McEntire reveals her favorite Lynn song, “If You’re Not Gone Too Long,” and sings some of it.

Jack White breaks down the unique way Lynn writes double choruses and verses, using “Fist City” as an example. White produced and played on Lynn’s 2004 album, Van Lear Rose, which won Best Country Album at the 2005 Grammy Awards.

Sheryl Crow describes the personal appeal of Lynn’s songs, which seemed to speak for many. Crow sang on the 2010 tribute to Loretta Lynn at Lynn’s request and looks up to Lynn as a powerful female role model.


LYNN: ♪ Bring out the babies' daddy ♪ ♪ That's who they've come to see ♪ ♪ Not the woman that's burning down our family tree ♪ ♪ No, not the woman that's burning down our family tree ♪ CROW: Her lyrics were just right, you know, really caught your ear, and it made you feel like, 'Oh, she wrote that for me.

She knows -- How does she know that?'

And she was so masterful at that -- writing, you know, really catchy pop songs that were country songs.

WHITE: She's got her own style of writing because she writes backwards.

She sort of writes with a double chorus.

There's not just one chorus, per se, when you listen to her songs.

There's like two choruses.

And she starts sort of with the second one and then comes back and writes the first part of the chorus and then goes back and starts writing the verses and the story to get to it.

Let's say 'Fist City,' for example.

The beginning of that chorus starts off... ♪ If you don't want to go to Fist City ♪ ♪ You better detour around my town ♪ Now, is this a verse or is this a chorus?

Nobody writes like this.

♪ 'Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head ♪ ♪ And I'll pick you off of the ground ♪ That's the first part of the chorus, and then it's... ♪ I ain't saying my baby's a saint, 'cause he ain't ♪ I mean, that's just a weird way of writing that you don't see other people do.

To me, she started with the second part and worked back around and interchanged those, but just to have that two existing parts right there that have nothing to do with the verses of the song, that's really complicated to do.

You couldn't really sit down and do that, really.

A really trained professional songwriter, it'd be very hard for them to pull off, but it's just natural to her.

MAN: Do you have a favorite song?

-McENTIRE: Of Loretta's? -MAN:Yeah.

McENTIRE: Every night before I go onstage, I sing... ♪ Going to wipe these teardrops from my eyes ♪ That's my song.

Yeah, that's my warm-up song.

Ask JD. He's my sound man.

And that's the way I check my mike.

I sing that song every night.

♪ I'll be true to you, honey, while you're gone ♪ ♪ If you're not gone too long, oh, yeah ♪ That's the song I sing for Loretta.


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