In the year 1999, many people feared the turn of the century would bring chaos, bank collapse and possibly a stock market crash. Some believed the technology we so heavily rely on would fail at midnight of New Year’s Eve. Running water would stop or all electricity would turn off. But Loretta Lynn was not among those worriers. “I lived without electricity, indoor plumbing, or central heat every day of my life until I was a grown woman,” Lynn responded to the fear of the new century. Her life was a story many experienced in small town, working class America. Lynn is proud to have been raised in a poor Coal Mining county in Kentucky.
One of Loretta Lynn’s most celebrated and beloved albums, Coal Miner’s Daughter, is one of the truly respected and revered album projects in the country music industry. It is composed of 11 diverse songs, including both original tracks and covers. Every song is sung with Lynn’s trademark emotion and passion and includes traditional country instruments like the steel guitar. Although many of the songs on the album are about cheating, the themes of the tracks cover a wide range creating a diverse album.
The only single off this album, also titled “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, describes Lynn’s family and rural upbringing in a detailed narrative. The song describes with vivid imagery the poor conditions she grew up in, and her family member’s handwork and love for each other. This song was the lone single released off the album and hit Billboard’s #1 late in the year 1970. Incredibly enough, although the song is country to the core in theme, vocals and instrumentation, it also appeared on the pop charts. As a crossover hit, the single sold more than 500,000 copies of the album. This is a unique situation because it’s very uncommon for an album to be certified “Gold” by the RIAA with only one released single. Lynn’s autobiographical tune was truly one of a kind and its popularity was reflected across the board with fans from all walks of life. Although the other songs on the album were popular covers, the single carried the album to the top of the charts.
Lynn wrote only two songs in addition to “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “What Makes Me Tick” and “Any One, Any Worse, Any Where”. These were never released as singles, and were never recognized on radio airplay. The rest of the album is filled with covers of previous hit songs. Since artists released albums so frequently at that time, it was common to include multiple covers rather than all original songs like most artists do today. None of these songs had much popularity or enjoyed any airplay compared to the single’s success, which was through the roof. One song on Coal Miner’s Daughter that intrigues me is Loretta’s cover of Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin”. This song, Twitty’s signature ballad, stands today as his #1 selling single. Lynn and Twitty released their first duet album in 1971. She covered one of his greatest hits before the two even began their long duet career together. Being a huge fan and personal friend of Twitty, the song was almost a prophetic sign of things to come in Lynn’s career. Being a self-proclaimed clairvoyant, Lynn would say later that her duet career with Conway, one of the most successful in the history of country music, was born in the CMD album. She did perform the song, “Hello Darlin’ “ on several TV music variety shows, but again, it was never played on Country Radio.
“Coal Miners Daughter” the single is unique and widely recognized as the most respected and popular of autobiographical songs in country music. There are many songs written and sung about other artists like “Bob Will’s is still the King” by Waylon Jennings or Moe Bandy’s “Hank Williams You Wrote My Life”. There are very few successful songs written about the artist and sung by the artist like “CMD”. One of the only successful autobiographical songs released by a female artist since “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was “Tennessee Homesick Blues” by Dolly Parton. The lyrics were heavily influenced by Lynn’s narrative. Both songs talk about “mama” and “daddy” and the country way of life in which they were raised. Another successful autobiography was Faith Hill’s “Mississippi Girl”, but it was heavily criticized by Nashville as arrogant and unworthy of single release. “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, with it’s gritty narrative and rags to riches storyline was so real and humbly honest, one couldn’t help but admire the story of Lynn’s life that was amazing and heartfelt at the same time. In a time when the nation was moving toward sophistication and fast paced computers, the home spun yarn quality of the song took the listener back to a simplified time of life in American history. The rarity of popular and successful autobiographical songs shows that Lynn was a truly special and respected artist to pull off such a difficult song type.
In the United States the year 1969 was a big year for technology. NASA was doing incredible things and crossing boundaries men had only dreamed about. This was an extraordinary and exciting time of advancement for the human race but was a big pill for some to swallow. The thought of crossing new territory into our vast universe brought fear into many homes. This was true especially for the more rural families. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was a comfort and reminder of simpler times to many. The Civil Rights movement was continuing at this time in the US. Feminism was booming and women were fighting for their rights. Successful women were idolized and heavily supported by the movement. The feminist movement also reached country music. This was a great time for artists like Loretta to rise up and be recognized as a strong independent woman of her time. The year before the release of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” both Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton became members of the Grand Ole Opry. The women of Country music were taking the industry by storm. This was incredible timing for Loretta. It gave her more respectability as a female solo artist and helped record sales sky rocket. In 1969 Lynn released an album full of songs that spoke to the feminist movement. The album was called Woman of the World/To Make a Man was controversial but very popular and it’s two singles were top hits. Lynn believed in being treated fairly by her man and her songs reflected that belief. She made a name for herself by releasing songs that strong women wanted to hear. This was a perfect set up for her next album Coal Miner’s Daughter. With her strong renewed female following she was able to appeal to a large audience.
This album, CMD, moved away from the controversy of her last project and reminded listeners of the hard working country girl who sang and wrote the songs she had lived. Loretta’s songs are simple and easy to listen to, but the lyrics for the time written are often considered ground breaking and timely. Many of the songs on CMD had been hits on the country music charts and were already familiar to the country music audience. Most were not written by her, but were covers of other artist’s hits like “Snowbird” by Anne Murray. “Snowbird” is remembered as one of the most influential songs by a Canadian, not easy to accept by some country music fans. It was the first single by a Canadian female artist to be awarded American gold. The song is about a girl who had an unfaithful love, thinking and wishing about freedom from her painful situation as she watches a little bird flying away. The song has undertones of women finding their own way without the help of a man. The lyrics of the song are not necessarily controversial, but the song’s success with Anne Murray is a reminder of Women’s achievements in North America. Lynn’s cover of the song on Coal Miner’s Daughter is an understated encouragement of her support of female success in the industry. Lynn choosing “Snowbird” as part of her album was a smart choice to keep her entire audience happy. Feminists were glad to hear Lynn supporting Murray’s success by covering the song and casual listeners were pleased to hear the famous song redone by such a respected artist.
Loretta’s unmatched success with single driven album, which was an autobiography, can be linked with the incredible timing of Coal Miner’s Daughter’s release. With men on the moon, women’s equality on the rise, and Lynn’s fan base rapidly increasing, came a perfect platform for Lynn to release the album. The across the board success and demand for the single on radio caught the attention of Hollywood and the publishing giants in New York. With a follow up best selling autobiography and Academy Award winning movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter takes its place not only as a description of a beloved American artist, but its story and symbolism represents for many a time in American History forever etched in the hearts of all that have heard this great country song.
1.Coal Miner’s Daughter
3.Less of me
4. Any One, Any Worse, Any Where
5. For the Good TImes
6. The Man of the House
7. What Makes me Tick
8. Another Man Loved me Last Night
9. It’ll be Open Season on You
10. Too Far
“Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn.” ITunes. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/coal-miners-daughter/id5241898>.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn Songfacts.” Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn Songfacts. Songfacts, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=35408>.
Collins, Tom. “Tom Collins On Loretta Lynn.” Personal interview. 20 Mar. 2015.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Coal Miner’s Daughter Lyrics.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.
“Snowbird by Anne Murray Songfacts.” Snowbird by Anne Murray Songfacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2319>.