Opry member Loretta Lynn has had 70 songs on the country charts, 16 of which reached Number One, and she’s currently celebrating 50 fantastic years in country music. She’s also a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Her life was even made into an Academy Award-winning movie. But to Loretta Lynn herself, she’s “just a woman.” She’s repeatedly said in interviews, “I’m not a star. Stars are in the sky. I’m just a woman.”
With a track list of some of country music’s biggest hits including “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Fist City,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind),” and many, many more, Loretta Lynn is certaintly a country music icon.
Loretta has been an influential artist from her earliest songs – like “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” And the lyrics to each and every one of them in many ways define her life. This week, Loretta releases Honky Tonk Girl: My Life In Lyrics – a new book where Loretta tells a musical story. She writes alongside her own lyrics about writing the words that would help form iconic songs in country music’s history. She also includes passages about musicians who have inspired her – from Kitty Wells to Jack White – as well as personal photos throughout the years, handwritten lyrics scrawled on hotel stationary, and a reverent foreword by Elvis Costello. Click here to purchase the book.
Early in the book, Loretta explains her approach to songwriting, explains how she could only write what she had lived, and about writing her first song (“I’m A Honky Tonk Girl”).
Loretta answered questions about the book, about her music, and especially about songwriting to The Boston Globe. Click here to read the full article. Here are some of our favorite questions with Loretta’s answers.
Early in the book, you outline your approach to writing: “For me, I could and can only write what I’ve lived.” Did songwriting come naturally to you?
A: It did, but I never could write before I started. I could never understand that. When I wrote my first song, they started popping out every three or four days. It was a good thing because my writing is what got me my first recording contract in Nashville.
Would you have been as successful if you hadn’t written your own songs?
A: No, I’ve never been able to ask a writer for a song that I thought fit me right at the time. You have to be in the frame of mind of what you’re going through at the time. When I recorded my songs, that was exactly how I felt.
Have you ever shied away from writing about something?
A: Nothing. If I think about it, I’m gonna write it. You may never know why, but I’m going to write it.
I was astonished to learn in the book that “Coal Miner’s Daughter” originally had eight more verses.
A: Yes. [My producer] Owen Bradley said, “Loretta, you take some of them verses off. There’s already been one ‘El Paso,’ and there will never be another.” Remember, “El Paso,” [Marty Robbins] was a real long, almost five minutes. That was the hardest thing I ever did, though, was take the verses off.
When you think back on all the songs you’ve written, is there anything that ties them all together, a common thread?
A: I think just knowing that I spoke my mind on every song I ever wrote.
-The Boston Globe
Had Loretta never sung, “When you’re lookin’ at me, you’re lookin’ at country,” the sentiment would still be true. For people all over the world, she’s defined country music. Loretta will join us at the Ryman Auditorium for Opry Country Classics, hosted by Larry Gatlin, on May 10. Click here for tickets. Here’s Loretta on the Opry stage performing one of her many hits, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”