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Loretta Lynn’s New Album, and the Trail She Blazed in Country Music

Thanks to the memoir—and the film adaptation of it, starring Sissy Spacek, from 1980—Lynn’s story is well known. She grew up poor in Appalachian Kentucky to a coal-mining dad whom she adored. When she was fifteen, she married a boy from a nearby holler who had two nicknames: Doo (short for Doolittle) and Mooney (short for moonshine). Doo moved the couple to Washington State, where Lynn became a mother of four by the age that most girls are graduating from high school. Doo also bought her a guitar, and, when he thought she’d become good enough, began booking her at honky-tonks and encouraging her to write songs. Eventually, the pair made its way back east, to Nashville, where Lynn was befriended and mentored by Patsy Cline, who at the time was the most successful woman in country music, and also by the legendary Nashville Sound producer Owen Bradley, who, during the next two decades, became Lynn’s studio partner on more than fifty Top 10 country hits, about a dozen of which were duets with Conway Twitty.

This version of the Loretta Lynn story, which Lynn herself is largely responsible for, tends to present the singer as a woman in a man’s world, mostly guided by, and reacting to, the men around her. But it wasn’t just Cline: the key figures in Lynn’s early artistic development were just as often women as they were men. Lynn’s most important vocal inspiration was Kitty Wells, who, before Cline came along, was the only woman in country history to consistently score major solo hits. Wells topped the charts with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” in 1952. “Too many times married men think they’re still single,” Wells sang. “That has caused many a good girl to go wrong.” Lynn, who was twenty when

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