The Story Behind the Final Song Loretta Lynn Wrote for Her Husband “Doo”

A 15-year-old coal miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn first met 21-year-old Oliver Vanetta Lynn (also nicknamed “Doolittle,” “Doo,” and “Mooney”) at a pie social in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, and married soon after in 1948. By the end of that year, Lynn was already pregnant with the first of their six children they would have together, Betty Sue (1948-2013).

The Lynns’ tumultuous marriage, fueled by Oliver’s drinking and infidelity, lasted nearly 50 years until his death at 69 in 1996. Their union also inspired some of Loretta’s most honest and exposed songs, some chronicling his cheating and alcohol abuse—including hits “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and “Fist City”—and others documenting their love, including “Love Is The Foundation” and “I’m All He’s Got (But He’s Got All Of Me).”

“[We had] lots of ups and downs,” said Lynn in 2010. “He never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice.”

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Despite their turbulent love, Lynn credited “Doo” with driving her career—from purchasing her first guitar and lining up radio spots to working as her talent manager for years. “I married Doo when I wasn’t but a child and he was my life from that day on,” said Lynn in her 2002 memoir Still Woman Enough. “But as important as my youth and upbringing was, there’s something else that made me stick to Doo. He thought I was something special, more special than anyone else in the world, and never let me forget it. That belief would be hard to shove out the door.”

Lynn added, “Doo was my security, my safety net. And just remember, I’m explainin’, not excusin’… Doo was a good man and a hard worker. But he was an alcoholic, and it affected our marriage all the way through.”

American country music singer and guitarist Loretta Lynn performs on stage at the Grand Ole Opry—1960s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

‘Let the Bottle Wait’

In 1985, Loretta wrote her final song to Doo before his death, “Wouldn’t It Be Great?” Recorded in Nashville and released on Lynn’s 1985 album Just a Woman, the song is her asking her husband to say “I love you” once more—Say you love me just one time, with a sober mind. 

“My husband liked to drink a lot and that’s where that song comes from,” said Lynn. “‘Say you love me just one time, with a sober mind. I always liked that song, but I never liked to sing it around Doo.”

Wouldn’t it be fine if you could say you love me
Just one time with a sober mind?
Wouldn’t that be fine, now wouldn’t that be fine?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could love me first
And let the bottle wait?
Now wouldn’t that be great, now wouldn’t that be great?

Wouldn’t it be great, hey, hey, wouldn’t that be great?
Throw the old glass crutch away and watch it break
Wouldn’t it be great, hey, hey, wouldn’t that be great?
Lord, it’s for our sake, now wouldn’t that be great?

In the name of love, what’s a man so great
Be thinking of? In the name of love
What a man he was

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“Wouldn’t It Be Great” was re-recorded by Lynn, along with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette on the trio’s 1993 collaborative album Honky Tonk Angels. In 2018, Lynn released her final recording of the song on her penultimate album of the same name, which was produced by her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash.

“That song just always meant so much to me because of the lyrics ‘When my fancy lace couldn’t turn your face,'” said Lynn Russell of her mother’s song. “It was just so powerful and was a song that needed to be recorded for this album with Loretta. It shows just how masterful my mom is with writing down her feelings.”

Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

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