Written by Dena Lipper. 10 November 2014.
“To Make a Man (Feel Like a Man)” from Loretta Lynn’s 1969 album, Woman of the World/To Make a Man, rose to become a top 10 song shortly after its release. The song is aimed at encouraging women to really step up and be women, but in a way that is very anti-feminist, by doing all of the stereotypical household tasks of a woman. When looking at the song itself and the historical context of its release, it is important to take the lyrics into consideration with Lynn’s social status at the time. The clarity of this song is also important to look at when analyzing it, because this really helps to understand Lynn’s intentions with the song.
Loretta Lynn has long been seen as an iconic figure in the feminist world, especially as one of the biggest feminists in country music, a genre that typically has very traditional themes. Her feminist tendencies were strengthened later in her career with songs like “The Pill,” which talked about the very controversial topic of birth control. Many feminists will call Loretta Lynn one of their own, but Lynn does not like to label herself. She has said in the past that everything she has done in her career has been to make her husband happy, therein going against almost everything feminists stand for with that one statement.
In this song, Lynn talks about how men don’t want to wash clothes or do dishes, so to make your man really feel like he’s a man, you need to do those things to show him that you are a woman. If you don’t do these things, according to Lynn, you might lose him to some other girl who will do all of this for him. When you first listen to this song, it can sound like a very empowering song. Lynn provides clear advice to show your man that you are a woman, and makes it seem like she is saying to stand up to your man to do this. However, when you actually look at the lyrics to fully understand what she is saying, it is clear that Lynn has a very traditional mindset in this song, and is, in fact, telling women to basically submit to their husbands.
Although she is telling women to show their men that they are women, she is telling them to do so in a way that sets back everything feminists had been fighting for over the previous ten years or so.The song starts out with an instrumental introduction featuring drums, guitar, and steel guitar. The steel guitar in the song gives it a kind of Hawaiian feel throughout the song. The song is very bouncy and upbeat from the beginning, but evolves even further throughout the song. The song holds to the simple sound of the time, taking advantage of the popularity of the steel guitar in country music.
As the song moves into the second verse, you can hear the addition of background singers, which remain through the rest of the song. Moving into the chorus, there is a very interesting guitar lick before the words start, which repeats going into the second chorus as well. In addition to the background singers, we can also now hear the added piano. By this point, the volume of the song has increased; from Loretta’s voice to the background singers, it is just generally louder.
Lynn’s voice is very interesting to listen to, because in this song, like others, her voice fluctuates a lot. Her voice is not very confident, in that it shows that she is almost vulnerable. This goes along with the song well in the way that it adds to the anti-feminist view that women are weaker and should stick to doing household work. At the same time, however, this is interesting because of the fact that Loretta is, noticeably, very comfortable living up to these stereotypes that so many women are not. The song finishes off with a repetition of the last line, “To make a man feel like a man, you’ve got to show him you’re a woman,” and a strumming of the steel guitar to bring it to a close.
The clarity of the song is very helpful in conveying the song’s message. Although the lyrics, at first, might be hard to catch, there really isn’t a lot of room for confusion in the song. Loretta’s message is very clear: do what you do to make your man happy: “You’ll find he’s not that hard to please if you love him right and fill his needs.” The song uses familiar language and is very characteristically country, making it very easy for any country fan to understand quickly. The standard verse-chorus song form adds to the clarity, since a pitch or tempo change doesn’t distract the listener. The structure of the song helps the message come across very clearly, with little left up to the imagination, especially since it fits with the time period being a traditional song with a very traditional message.
This song rose to number 3 on the Billboard country singles chart, but is only a small blip on the radar of Loretta Lynn’s career. It is not one of her most famous songs; however, because of that, “To Make a Man (Feel Like a Man)” can easily be seen as one of the most interesting to examine. If this song had been better recognized, I think that Loretta Lynn would have quickly become an enemy of the feminist movement. The few songs she had that were ‘feminist,’ can all be debated as to their true meanings. “Woman of the World,” from the same album, sounds like it would be a trying to portray an empowering message; however if you listen to it, it is about Loretta Lynn getting jealous about other women trying to talk to her man. Although this is something that many people can relate to, it is something that was looked down upon by feminists. Loretta Lynn, no matter the controversy, always fought through the critics, and continues to do so today, still shining near the forefront of the country spotlight.
|Intro||0:00||Instrumental||Drums, Guitar, and Steel guitar; very bouncy, upbeat; Hawaiian feel because of the steel guitar|
|Verse 1||0:09||“The man…”||Simple sound with traditional country instruments; cuts words off quickly, doesn’t hold out the sounds|
|Verse 2||0:21||“You’ll find…”||Gets a little louder, background singers gradually added throughout verse, starting with simple background melody humming, moves into complete background singing.|
|Chorus||0:36||“Show him…”||Guitar lick leading into chorus, background singers (possibly male), piano added; first part flows nicely from one word to the next, then the lyrics are more broken up for last 2 lines of the chorus.|
|Instrumental||1:01||Instrumental||Piano, guitar and steel guitar, continues with the Hawaiian sound, interesting sound/beat breakup, gets back to the same sound/tempo as beginning|
|Verse 3||1:12||“When he…”||Simple sound with traditional country instruments; cuts words off quickly, doesn’t hold out the sounds|
|Verse 4||1:22||“There’s lots of things…”||Gets a little louder, background singers continue throughout verse|
|Chorus||1:37||“Show him…”||Guitar lick leading into chorus, background singers (possibly male), piano continues; first part flows nicely from one word to the next, then the lyrics are more broken up for last 2 lines of the chorus.|
|Outro||2:02||“To make…”||Piano key strokes start outro, louder “to make a man…”; steel guitar sound to wrap up the song.|
Lynn, Loretta. To Make a Man (Feel Like a Man). Decca, 1969. Vinyl recording.
Nash, Alanna. “Loretta Lynn.” Behind Closed Doors: Talking with the Legends of Country Music. New York: A. Knopf, 1988. 290-308. Print.
Willman, Chris. “Running With The Devil: The Politics of the Campaign Trail.” Rednecks & Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music. New York: New, 2005. 165. Print.