Country Legend Loretta Lynn Passes Away at 90

Photo by David McClister / Legacy Recordings

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Today, music lost its leading lady of country, Loretta Lynn. The legendary singer passed away peacefully in her sleep on Tuesday (Oct. 4) at the age of 90. Her death was confirmed by her publicist.

“Our precious mom, Loretta Lynn, passed away peacefully this morning, October 4th, in her sleep at home at her beloved ranch in Hurricane Mills,” the family of Loretta Lynn said in a statement. The family has asked for privacy during this time, as they grieve. An announcement regarding a memorial will be forthcoming in a public announcement.

Lynn is known for her classic country tunes and for paving the path for women in the genre.

Life in Kentucky

Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb in Butcher Holler, Kentucky on April 14, 1932, to Clara Marie and coal miner, Ted Webb. Lynn was the second of eight children, and together they were avid country listeners. Lynn could easily be found singing around the house to her favorite musician, Kitty Wells. Little did she know that she was going to become one of the most famous and celebrated country musicians. 

The southern star met her husband at a pie social at 16, where she baked a pie with salt rather than sugar. Men bid money on their favorite pie and had the pleasure of meeting the woman who made it. For Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, that was the great Loretta Lynn. The couple married in 1948, just a month after they met. 

Later that same year, Lynn gave birth to her first daughter, Betty Sue, who passed away in 2013. She would go on to have three more children by 1953: Jack Benny Lynn (1949), who died at 34, Clara Marie Lynn (1952), and Ernest Ray Lynn (1953). The beloved musician had four children by the age of 22. She later went on to welcome twins Peggy Jean and Patsy Eileen Lynn (1964); who she named for her sister, Peggy Sue Wright, and Patsy Cline.

When she was 17, Lynn moved to Custer, Washington with her new family (“Mooney” and Betty Sue). That’s where the artist bought her first guitar for $17. She began learning how to play as she sang (learning lots of Kitty Wells), and performed with local bands at local halls. Within a few months, Lynn earned her own individual band, and the rest is history.

More than a ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’

Perhaps you know Lynn for her hit song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970). The single became one of her biggest hits, so big that it sparked both a novel and a film. Her autobiography was published in 1976, with the same title, and instantly became a bestseller. She reflected on her time undergoing poverty, growing up young, and her successes in the music industry. Coal Miner’s Daughter went on to become a film in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. 

But beyond the art created about her is her music. And while she was popular for “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Lynn went on to do a lot for the music industry. She became the first woman to receive Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards (CMA), entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988, and has released 46 studio albums. She’s known for dropping one of the most successful duets in country history (“After the Fire is Gone” with Conway Twitty), which received CMA’s Vocal Duo of the Year in 1972. She has had over 50 top 10 hits, and 16 No. 1 hits alone between the years 1966 and 1978. 

After her husband’s death in 1996, Lynn took a hiatus from her music. In 2000, Audium Records released her album Still Country. She wrote her second autobiography, Still Woman Enough in 2002, and was recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003. 

Unlikely Duos & Recent Work

While it may have been likely to find Lynn and Twitty pairing together back in 1972, it certainly wasn’t expected to discover her collaborating with The White Stripes’ musician Jack White. In 2004, White helped to produce Lynn’s 42nd studio album, Van Lear Rose. 

The unlikely duo deemed working together successful as she took home the Grammy Award for Best Country Album. She crossed genres with White as she became Artist of the Year at the Americana Awards that same year. 

In 2009, Lynn began rerecording her hit music. By 2021, she released her 46th and final studio album, Still Woman Enough

Lynn was pre-deceased by her husband of 48 years Oliver Vanetta “Doolittle” Lynn, her daughter Betty Sue Lynn and son Jack Benny Lynn. She is survived by her daughters Patsy Lynn Russell, Peggy Lynn, Clara (Cissie) Marie Lynn and her son Ernest Ray Lynn as well as grandchildren Lori Lynn Smith, Ethan Lyell, Elizabeth Braun, Tayla Lynn, Jack Lynn, Ernest Ray Lynn Jr., Katherine Condya, Alexandria Lynn, Jasyntha Connelly, Megan Horkins, Anthony Brutto, Jason Lynn, Wesley Lynn, Levi Lynn, Emmy Rose Russell, David Russell, Lucca Marchetti, and step grandchildren David Greer, Jennafer Russell, Melody Russell and Natalie Rapp, and her great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to be made to the Loretta Lynn Foundation. Information about a memorial service/celebration of life will be made available at a later date.

Photo: Credit David McClister / Legacy Recordings

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