by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Surely the cultural establishment from Nashville to New York will claim Loretta Lynn as something of a progressive in the wake of her passing. This is not a trivial parcel of land for them to plant their flag upon, but it’s also not anyone’s to take. Lynn, whose voice rivals George Jones and Hank Williams as the defining sound of country music, is just as complicated as the world she leaves behind.
Lynn looked every bit like the southern matriarch she became after ascending to the heights of country music stardom in the late 1960s — more Scarlett O’Hara than Shania Twain — but the stories she told had fewer frills. If Williams was the Hillbilly Shakespeare, Lynn was the Hillbilly Dickinson. Unlike Williams, of course, Lynn lived to the ripe old age of 90, having shown mastery at the craft of American songwriting on later records like “Van Lear Rose” and “Wouldn’t It Be Great.”
Listen to “Miss Being Mrs.,” a piercing lamentation on widowhood literally discovered by Jack White during a visit to Lynn’s house in the early aughts. The barebones recording is American music at its finest, but the lyrics penned by Lynn herself are just as understated and just as deep.
Country went pop, but she didn’t go with it. She kept her head down and did the tradition proud.
After years of tumult, Lynn’s marriage to her well-known companion “Doolittle” ended with his death in 1996. Their relationship provided Lynn with plenty of fodder as a singer-songwriter whose few qualms about bringing the country into her world allowed her to join the cultural fray with an authentic depiction of sex and womanhood in a changing world. …
… Lynn loved Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump. She wasn’t “a fan of Women’s Liberation” but did more to normalize birth control than much of the second wave.