‘Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Celebration of the Life & Music of Loretta Lynn’ Highlights the Late Musician’s Career

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

On Sunday night (October 30), musicians of the highest caliber gathered to celebrate the life and career of the late songwriter and performer Loretta Lynn.

Hosted by Jenna Bush Hager, the night featured emotional performances, tributes, and special messages from Alan Jackson, Barbara Mandrell, Brandi Carlile, Darius Rucker, Dolly Parton, Faith Hill, George Strait, The Highwomen’s Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby with Brittany Spencer, Hoda Kotb, Jack White, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Marty Stuart, Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow, Sissy Spacek, Tanya Tucker, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, and Wynonna feat. Gaither Vocal Band and Larry Strickland.

The offering was presented by CMT and Sandbox Productions in partnership with Lynn’s family. It aired live commercial-free from the Grand Ole Opry House exclusively on CMT and was simulcast on SiriusXM’s Willie Roadhouse.

Opening the memorial, Wynonna feat. Gaither Vocal Band and Larry Strickland delivered a chills-inducing performance of the classic hymn, “How Great Thou Art” for the night’s first standing ovation. 

Highlights from the show included:

Jack White’s surprise appearance and powerful live performance of “Van Lear Rose, the title track of his and Loretta’s Grammy-winning album. Introduced by Margo Price, fans were also treated to a rarely seen performance from Third Man Records Vault Package #24, featuring White and Lynn performing “Whispering Sea,” a favorite of White’s and one of the first songs Loretta ever wrote. 

The Highwomen’s Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby along with Brittney Spencer performed the finale of Lynn’s most recognizable hit, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Earlier in the night, Carlile also performed “She’s Got You” solo.  

Alan Jackson expressed his gratitude to the Lynn family for allowing him to sing “Where Her Heart Has Always Been,” the song he wrote for his mother when she passed away, in memory of Loretta.

He shared that Loretta often reminded him of his mother: “Loretta was always very sweet to me from the time I stepped on this stage 30 years ago. She reminded me a lot of my mama. Both were outgoing, sweet, and genuine and would tell you exactly what was on their minds.”

Lynn’s granddaughter, Emmy Russell, joined forces with Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson, to perform “Lay Me Down,” the first song Loretta and Willie ever recorded together to a standing O. 

Keith Urban fondly remembered Loretta by playing a voicemail she had left for him inviting him to her birthday party. “Keith, it’s Loretta. I’m having a birthday and your butt better be there,” the voicemail said.

Urban followed the voicemail with his rendition of “You’re Looking At Country.” 

Barbara Mandrell recalled watching the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter on her tour bus, calling Lynn an ‘iconic talent’ who was also kind, generous, and loving. “People are watching for one reason, we all love Loretta,” Mandrell said. “There was only one Loretta.”

She then introduced Tanya Tucker, who sang “Blue Kentucky Girl,” accompanied by her daughters Layla and Presley on background vocals.

Martina McBride shared an emotional memory of the day that Loretta inducted her into the Grand Ole Opry and remarked that ‘women of country music could not be where we are today without Loretta Lynn.’

“She was funny and fun. She was wise and a brilliant songwriter,” McBride said. “She was so real and always Loretta.”

George Strait remembered Loretta as “one helluva songwriter and entertainer,” also saying, “‘I love her and miss her dearly” as he delivered her first No. 1 hit, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind).”

Host Jenna Bush Hager recalled the controversy surrounding one of Lynn’s biggest hits—a song that country radio originally refused to play, “The Pill,” sung by a spirited Margo Price.

Lynn’s granddaughter Tayla Lynn and daughter Patsy Lynn Russell took the stage and recalled their pride in all that Lynn accomplished and how loved she was by the world. 

Throughout the evening, more of Lynn’s closest friends and fans delivered heartfelt speeches and shared personal memories, including Sissy Spacek recalled being “thunderstruck” upon first meeting Loretta; Dolly Parton shared that “Loretta was the best friend anybody could ever have.” Taylor Swift praised Lynn for being an example for all songwriters, particularly females with her ‘truthful, fearless honesty’ in her writing. 

Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMT

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