“Coal Miner’s Daughter”

Loretta Lynn was raised in a rural town in Kentucky, her home didn’t have running water or electricity. She was born to a hardworking mother and coal mining father. She never dreamed of leaving her hometown, but her music dreams took her far from Kentucky. She may have left the country life but she’ll never forget “the mem’ries of a coal miner’s daughter”. She released the single “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, an autobiographical song, in the year 1970.

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” is a song that made a huge impact in Country music. It was released on the album Coal Miner’s Daughter which is now a platinum album. Its title and lyrics were also adapted to the Hollywood film screen, which put a spotlight on country music across America.

Loretta Lynn wrote and sang this single about her own life. It’s extremely rare for an autobiographical song hit number 1 on country music charts. The song is a narrative about Lynn’s life with a strophic structure. A strophic structure only consists of verses and is often the building blocks of story songs. Without a chorus or bridge, the song’s multiple verses give the story more flow. Choosing strophic structure says a lot about the effect Lynn was trying to achieve when writing this song. Lynn’s goal is not to teach a lesson and therefore does not need a chorus to repeat the deeper message of her song. She is telling her own experience, but not telling you how you should feel or what you should think about it. The strophic structure gives her momentum in her story, especially when she changes keys in the fifth chorus. The structure allows the excitement to build without having to repeat a chorus between verses. Therefore, Lynn can tell her story in an epic way with the key change as her climax, but does not have to tell her audience what their reaction should be. This song was unlike anything Lynn had ever produced. It was a breath of fresh air to country music, something new and different.

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” is about as country as music can get. The song’s theme, instruments and vocals are country to the core. The theme of the song is Lynn’s rural upbringing in Butcher Holler, Kentucky with 7 siblings. She describes her family’s experience as a poor but loving unit surviving on a coal miner’s pay. “We were poor but we had love that’s the one thing that daddy made sure of. He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar”. The song talks about the family with vivid imagery like the mother reading the bible by the coal oil light. Or the hardships they faced like the mother’s fingers bleeding after scrubbing the clothes clean on the washboard. Lynn discusses poverty and her dad’s struggle to even have shoes for all the kids, “In the summer time we didn’t have shoes to wear, but in the winter time we’d all get a brand new pair”. Lynn’s main point is that she is proud of where she comes from and the morals her family values. She is not ashamed of her poverty or rural upbringing, but appreciative of her family’s hard work ethic, love for each other and strength in hardships. That is the theme that made this song so popular and also so country. People of similar background felt they could relate to Lynn and her story in a time when the nation was moving toward sophistication and technology, the down home quality of the song took the listener back to a simplified time of life that held on to important values.

The instruments used are also country. The steel guitar, a staple of country music, has a large presence in throughout the song. It complements the theme of the lyrics very well. Both feel very true to country. Lynn’s vocals are unique on every album she has produced. She has a one of a kind voice that is hard to mistake. Her singing style in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is no different. She sings with an accent so thick that some of her words seem warped like “warsh” board rather than washboard, or “tard” instead of tired. The accent contributes to the country tone of the song. She did not attempt to change her voice for radio like many artists did. Not every artist with an accent sings with one as well. By not changing her hick accent, she proves herself as a proud hillbilly woman. Lynn also sings this song with her signature passionate style. She is known for her confident voice that’s filled with emotion, never timid or meek but always clear and pure above the music. I would compare her voice to Miranda Lambert. Both artists sing with pure confidence, especially in their songs about fighting with other women. Their vocals are strong and clear, never run together or too quiet to hear like many pop artists today. Unlike Lynn, Miranda has a few songs she sings with a milder sweeter tone. Loretta always punches the high notes and sings with her full range of volume.

Incredibly enough, although “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is country to the core in theme, vocals and instrumentation, it also appeared on the pop charts. This song was so unique as a successful autobiography, which is a very rare type of song to hit the charts. It’s success proves that Lynn was a truly special and respected artist to pull off such a difficult song type. “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”. It is rare to hear songs written about the artist and sung by the artist like “CMD”. One of the few successful autobiographical songs released by a female artist since “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton. Dolly’s autobiographical tune was released only a year after “CMD.” The theme was heavily influenced by the success of Lynn’s personal narrative. Both songs talk about poverty in youth with phrases like “In the summer time, we didn’t have shoes to wear” (Lynn) and “I didn’t have a coat and it was way down in the fall” (Parton). Both songs address hard work, family love, and Christianity. It is clear “Coal Miner’s Daughter” had an impact on other artists like Dolly Parton.

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” is unique for so many reasons. Not only is the autobiographical theme rare, it is not often that a song so purely country can crossover into pop. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” achieved incredible goals, defines a huge part of Loretta’s career, and is dear to the heart of country music.

Works Cited

“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>.

“Coat Of Many Colors by Dolly Parton Songfacts.” Coat Of Many Colors by Dolly Parton Songfacts. Songfacts, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=11229>.

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