Loretta Lynn, the queen of country music, has died at the age of 90, passing peacefully at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. The hearts of all of us at Austin City Limits go out to her family, friends and fans.
The Butcher, Holler, Kentucky-born Lynn – Loretta Webb to her parents – was as iconic a figure in music as has ever been. The proud coal miner’s daughter went on to become one of the most influential women in the history of American music. Her plain-spoken, instantly relatable singing and sharp, smart songwriting put her in the rare echelon of boundary-busting trailblazers. Tunes like “Don’t Come Home a-Drinkin’” and “The Pill” made it clear that the women of country music, whether performers or the subjects of songs, could and would be as independent, assertive and self-confident as their male counterparts. Artists inside and outside C&W like Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Deanna Carter, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Margo Price and Sheryl Crow point to Lynn as a north star. Longtime fan Jack White paid homage by producing her acclaimed 2004 album Van Lear Rose.
With over seventy chart hits, her list of indelible songs is staggering: “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” “Love is the Foundation,” “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” “One’s On the Way,” “After the Fire” (with duet partner Conway Twitty), and, of course, the iconic, autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which became a bestselling memoir and a beloved film, are the tip of a substantial iceberg. Her incredible body of work led to Lynn being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013, and she also was the recipient of a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor, among many other accolades. She may have slowed down in her later years, but she didn’t stop – she continued performing and releasing records, with her most recent album Still Woman Enough coming out in 2021.
“From the time she stepped onto the ACL stage in her shimmering full-length gown, there was no doubt that she was the Queen of Country Music,” our executive producer Terry Lickona says. “The power of that voice and those songs commanded the room like few others have through the 48 years of Austin City Limits. The girl from Butcher Holler had arrived, and ACL once again made history. She was the genuine article; there never was anyone quite like her, and never will be again.”
Lynn recorded two classic episodes of ACL – one in 1983 during Season 8 and the other in 1998 during Season 23. We at ACL were thrilled to induct her into the ACL Hall of Fame in 2015. So her loss is difficult for us to grasp. As did so many of her fans and supporters, we always thought Loretta Lynn, like Mount Rushmore, would endure; however, her legacy – all those great songs – is immortal.
Good night, coal miner’s daughter.