2002 Honorary Member
Loretta Lynn’s life story is the stuff of movies. She was born in a tiny log cabin in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, the second of eight children. Married early to Mooney Lynn, she moved with her growing family to Washington State, where job prospects were better than in the coal-mining region of Kentucky. There, she soon began singing with local country bands. In 1960 Loretta Lynn signed her first recording contract, with a small label out of Vancouver, British Columbia. She and Mooney personally mailed her first recording—“I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”—out to country music stations across the nation and then drove cross-country, promoting it at every station that would give them airtime. That work paid off, for it rose to #14 on the country music charts and led to her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
By the middle of the 1960s, Loretta Lynn was writing and performing songs that spoke not to the then-developing youth culture, but to adults with a special set of life problems, generally ones of the heart. Many of her best and best-known songs, such as “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Steal my Man)” and “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on your Mind)” articulate a woman’s perspective, which was rare then in a music that had mainly been by and about men.
Appropriately, Loretta Lynn became, in 1972, the first woman to win “Entertainer of the Year” from the Country Music Association. Her star rose even higher in 1976 with the publication of her bestselling autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter [ITALIC], a title she borrowed from another of her hits. Her book and her life soon after became the source and subject for a successful and highly acclaimed movie, one that appealed not just to lovers of country music but to general audiences across the nation and around the world. She continues to write, perform, and record, for her legions of fans would not have it otherwise. And she has been honored by her peers and colleagues: she is a long-standing member of the Grand Ole Opry (where she still makes regular appearances) and she was elected in 1988 to the Country Music Hall of Fame. To paraphrase another of her hits: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Loretta!”
No singer, songwriter, musician, Kentuckian, woman, or person is more deserving of the special attention we pay Loretta Lynn today. By her talent, work, accomplishments, and humanity are we all graced. The Society for American Music is deeply honored to welcome Loretta Lynn into membership in our society of lovers of America’s music.
Loretta Lynn’s plaque reads: “In recognition of your significant contributions to American music as a performer and songwriter. Your life and music have been an inspiration to many others.”
Citation by Dale Cockrell