The Legacy of Loretta Lynn in 5 Songs

There isn’t an artist in the country space today that can’t trace part of their success back to Loretta Lynn. Her influence on country music left the genre forever changed. No one was doing it quite like Loretta in the ’70s. Her songs ran the gamut from standing her ground, to birth control, to picking fights.

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She took country music to the next level, opening up and being candid while many of her peers were still playing coy and avoiding hard issues.

In honor of Lynn’s birthday on Friday (April 14), we’ve compiled five artists (among a much longer list) that have heralded the “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” singer as an inspiration and the songs we think are their most reminiscent of Lynn.

1. “It All Comes Out in the Wash” (Miranda Lambert)

“I spent some time with [Loretta], and you meet a lot of people in a career, but it’s one of those memories that’s forever burned into my heart,” Lambert once said. “She was such a lovely human being and made me feel so at home.”

While Lambert has made it clear that she holds Lynn in high esteem, her reverence for the country icon can also be felt throughout her music.

It’s Lambert’s candor that puts her in league with Lynn. In “It All Comes Out in the Wash,” Lambert embraces the messier sides of life—All the mistakes, all the wild streaks. It also has an element of humor that was well accounted for in Lynn’s music. In “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” Lynn was serious about her threat but managed to keep it light-hearted enough that it plays more fun than bitter.

2. “Follow Your Arrow” (Kacey Musgraves)

Kacey Musgraves gave a powerful performance of Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” during the In Memorium segment of the 2023 Grammy Awards. Though Musgraves can’t relate to the exact life Lynn lays out in the famous hit, it’s clear by her emotive rendition that Lynn’s work has been influential to Musgraves.

That influence can be heard in Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow.” In the same way, Lynn was a trailblazer for women’s empowerment in country music, Musgraves is starting to become a steward for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the genre. So, make lots of noise / Kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls / If that’s something you’re into, she sings in this 2013 hit.

3. “Smell Like Smoke” (Lainey Wilson)

“I would not be here and I would definitely not be the songwriter I am without Loretta,” Lainey Wilson once told American Songwriter. “She said what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. The way she blazed a trail was insane.”

Wilson says things just how she wants to say them in “Smell Like Smoke.” She doesn’t posture a lick and instead decides to be exactly who she is in the moment: a little drunk, a little bit redneck, and a little damaged.

4. “Dear Miss Loretta” (Carly Pearce)

Like Lynn, Carly Pearce is a native Kentuckian. So, naturally, Pearce rates Lynn pretty high up on her list of influences. “She showed us all how to unapologetically tell the truth,” Pearce wrote in an Instagram post after Lynn’s death. “One of the greatest there ever will be.”

Pearce made her love of Lynn known on her album 29: Written In Stone in the song “Dear Miss Loretta.” I ain’t a coal miner’s daughter but my grandmother was / Must be whiskey in the water / Must be bourbon in the blood / I’m a long way from Kentucky / But the hurtin’s the same / Now I know why you sang that way, she sings in the chorus. In light of Lynn’s death, this song has become a poignant eulogy.

5. “Welcome to Fist City” (Chapel Hart)

Like Pearce, country trio Chapel Hart has referenced Lynn in their music. Earlier this year, the group shared a song called “Welcome to Fist City” – a continuation of Lynn’s song “Fist City,” released in 1968. While Lynn simply threatened the woman trying to steal her man, Chapel Hart has taken things a step further: You should have listened to Miss Loretta / cause she sang it loud and clear…welcome to Fist City…So hold you your wig and hold you your britches and welcome to Fist City.

Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

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