Loretta Lynn Didn’t Pretty Things Up
“The more you hurt, the better the song is,” she told me in a 2016 New York Times interview, when I visited her at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. “You put your whole heart into a song when you’re hurting.”
During the 1970s, Lynn chose and wrote songs, like “One’s on the Way” (by Shel Silverstein) and “The Pill,” that were bluntly and realistically resentful about the drudgery of parenthood. “The Pill” — with a narrator who compares herself to a brood hen and declares, “You’ve set this chicken your last time/’cause now I’ve got the pill” — was banned by many country stations when it was released in 1975, but reached the country Top 10 anyway.
“I wasn’t the first woman in country music,” Lynn said in an Esquire interview in 2002. “I was just the first one to stand up there and say what I thought, what life was about. The rest were afraid to.”
Lynn’s forthrightness — along with the homely details that make her songs so believable — has become a foundation of country songwriting over the last half-century: through Reba McEntire, the Chicks, Miranda Lambert, Margo Price and Ashley McBryde, to note just a few names from a list that could run into the hundreds.