When: Sat., Jan. 22, 8 p.m. 2011
Loretta Lynn learned her first songs from her mother, who would sit her daughter on top of an old sewing machine and sing while she went about her chores in the poor, newsprint-papered shack where Lynn, known to her fans as the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was raised. Lynn, who’s lived the life of a poor, rural teenage mother and of a Country Music Hall of Famer, has often described those first songs as “story songs,” saying, “You know, something would happen and they’d make a song out of it.” The old melodies often chronicled disasters like floods and fires. “The Great Titanic” is the one she repeats most often. From those early days growing up, Lynn has associated music with real events, and her body of work, though often raw and personal, plays through like a history of femininity in the 20th century.
Lynn’s life has more than its share of gothic turns, and the singer swears her recent comeback began when she heard the voice of her dead husband telling her to get out of bed. Known for her floor-length gowns and poor family-planning, she may not seem like the portrait of a modern woman. But at a time when country music was still a boys’ club, Lynn converted her personal history into chart-bursting hits that ranged from classic three-chord honky-tonk (“Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind”) to controversial anthems of social change (“The Pill”).
In one of her best-known songs, Lynn, who was born during the Great Depression and who won a Best Country Album in 2004 for the Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose, declares, “When you’re looking at me, you’re looking at country,” which, while true, doesn’t go quite far enough. You’re also looking at history. — Chris Davis