Country legend Loretta Lynn faced unexpected early deaths around her, from beloved family members to beloved friends and her husband, children, and grandchildren.
The 89-year-old singer has come to terms with death. Despite the deep sorrow after losing two children, a husband and a grandchild, and recently, a close friend, she's been trying to carry on.
Loretta Lynn is considered one of the most important names in the country music industry. She’s received many accolades and awards throughout her six decades as a singer and songwriter.
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Born Loretta Webb in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, she is the second of eight children. Loretta and her siblings grew up in an Appalachian coal-mining community, and she started to show her singing skills at church as a young girl.
Her stage name Lynn comes from her first husband, Oliver Lynn (aka "Doolittle" and "Mooney"). They wed in 1948 when Loretta was 16. They moved to Custer, Washington, where Doolittle worked in logging camps.
By the time she was 20, the couple already had four children: Betty Sue, Jack Benny, Ernest Ray, and Clara Marie. Loretta split her time between staying home with the kids and doing odd jobs.
Loretta’s love and talent for music never got faded away, so she started performing at local venues with her husband’s encouragement. She soon got offered a contract with the label Zero Record and released her first hit, “I'm a Honky Tonk Girl.”
Despite being a mother of four at such a young age, Loretta and Doolittle hit the road and traveled to different cities to promote her first record in country radio stations.
In 1960, after moving to Nashville, Tenessee, the singer began working with Teddy and Doyle Wilburn. In October that year, she landed a gig at the legendary country music venue the Grand Ole Opry.
Her performance got the attention of Decca Records, which led to a contract. Two years later, Loretta topped the country music charts with the hit “Success.”
The country legend’s first big loss was her friend, the singer Patsy Cline. Patsy died in a plane crash and Loretta was devastated. Loretta, however, continued her path in country music.
Her first album debuted in 1963, named “Loretta Lynn Sings,” came with two top 10 country hits, "Wine, Women and Song" and "Blue Kentucky Girl."
Her success, especially among women, was due to her ability to capture and translate the struggles of the everyday woman and housewife into her lyrics. Many of her songs revealed marital problems she and Doolittle had.
In 1966, she got her highest-charting single to date, N.2, the hit "You Ain't Woman Enough,” but with her best-known song, “Coal Miner's Daughter,” she became N.1. In 1972, she received her first award, the Grammy for the duet "After the Fire Is Gone," with Conway Twitty.
She continued with her meteoric success, scoring hit after hit. Loretta and Conway made many other hits together and they won the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award for four consecutive years, from 1972 to 1975.
Keeping up with such a crazy schedule while raising kids can be a challenge at times. A few years ago, Lorettashared
with People how mad were her early days as a country star:
“Two years before I got pregnant, and I had twins. I’d play shows right up until the babies was born and that guitar around my neck just about killed me. I don’t advise it to any mother.”
In the ‘80s, however, Loretta Lynn’s domination in the country music scene slowly faded away due to the advent of mainstream pop music. In 1988, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Years later, Loretta spoke candidly about the cost of fame. She was constantly touring and was away from home and from her family most of the time.
She recalled the time when she couldn’t make it back home in time for Christmas and her kids woke up without their mother. But Loretta revealed that she felt she didn’t have a choice:
“I knew if I was going to make it, I had to be on the road,” says Lynn. “I knew my husband was going to make me sing, so I had to do it. I had to sing.”
THE UNTIMELY DEATHS
Loretta Lynn faced many losses throughout her life. The first child she lost was her 34-year-old son, Jack Benny Lynn. Jack drowned in an attempt to cross a river on horseback, 1984.
Before losing her eldest son, the country singer’s husband Doolittle passed away in 1966. The death was attributed to health problems, specifically diabetes-related. She admitted many times that her late husband was an alcoholic and womanizer.
Fortunately, Loretta had the support of her surviving children and grandchildren. Most people believed that the country icon wouldn’t experience any more loss; in 2016, she shared in her official Facebook account that her grandson (Jack’s son) Jeffrey Allen Lynn passed away.
Despite the pain of untimely deaths, Loretta Lynn has always been supported by the Lynn clan. At 89, she has four surviving children, 20 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and three great-greats.
HEALTH ISSUES AND LATEST WORK
Loretta Lynn has faced many issues, that’s for sure, but that never prevented her from working. In 2017 she suffered a stroke and a year later, she fractured her hip.
At the beginning of the year, she released her new album, “Still Woman Enough.” In September, after being impacted by the historic storm that hit Humphreys county, she lost her foreman and friend Wayne Spears; she held a benefit concert to help Middle Tenessee flood victims.
The show raised nearly $1 million from donations coming all over the globe. Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, and Keith Urban were among the many country names who sang at the concert.