No. 2: Loretta Lynn – Country’s Most Powerful Women of All Time
Lynn’s hardscrabble childhood and the emotional highs and lows of her adult life provided the inspiration for decades’ worth of some of the most hard-hitting, honest country songs the genre has ever seen. Along with Kitty Wells, Lynn was one of country music’s first true feminists, though she didn’t see herself that way. She sometimes wrote about the simple joys of the rural way of life she had grown up in as the daughter of a coal miner, but her tempestuous marriage — she has admitted that her husband was an alcoholic who regularly cheated on her and even hit her — also inspired songs with a feisty independence that was far ahead of its time, including “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Fist City” and “The Pill.”
Lynn scored a total of 16 No. 1 hits in a chart run that lasted from 1960, when she reached No. 16 with “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” all the way through 1985, when she scored her final Top 20 single with “Heart Don’t Do This To Me.” She also chronicled the ups and downs of her life in a best-selling autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, which was made into a successful film in 1980 that won Sissy Spacek an Academy Award for Best Actress for her uncanny portrayal of Lynn.
But Lynn was far from done. She’s stayed busy all the way into her 80s with a string of projects that includes one of the best-received of her career, 2004’s Van Lear Rose. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album of the Year.
Lynn has received numerous awards from both the CMA and ACM, and the ACM named her the ACM Artist of the Decade in the 1970s, making her the only female artist to ever win that distinction. She’s also won four Grammy awards, and she’s a member of both the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee in 2007 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. She was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2003, and in 2013 Lynn received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
Lynn’s influence as a singer, songwriter and personality can scarcely be measured. Whenever fans hear bold female artists like Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and more, they are hearing just a small portion of the downline of Lynn’s titanic influence on country music, which will continue to echo for generations to come.
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