July 17, 2024

Westside People

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Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” Changed Country Music

Loretta Lynn sang onstage nearly a decade ago: “If Your Eyes Turn to Me”—and if you stand in the enchanting darkness of the 9:30 Washington Club that night, here’s what your eyes saw: a fragile, cheerful, royal old woman The 81-year-old wears a shimmering pink gown with NFL shoulder pads, holds her mic like a mace, and smiles at the faithful—the coal miner’s daughter turned adorable honky-tonk queen.

Is this country music? The vector of the American dream that lifts people from hardship to something brighter, more humane, and more fun? Sadly, like other forms of stardom, elevator remains literal to the stars but figurative for fans, and Lynn seems to understand the whole deal better than most. After a few moments in the group, she sang “tabletThe History-Making Poem for Birth Control and perhaps the most famous song ever made about the ongoing struggle for women’s physical independence. Turns out, in patriarchal America, the Queen is still a woman.

Lynn died on Tuesday At her home in Tennessee. She was 90, and her life has followed the story lines that made Hollywood cliches. So much so that her journey from elementary school, to teen mom, to Nashville star, felt destined for “The Coal Mine’s Daughter,” the 1980 biopic named after the singer’s 1970 hit. Sissy Spacek would go on to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lane, But the song’s drama was still a tough eclipse. Within the eight-word opening line—”Well, I gave birth to a coal miner’s daughter…”—Lane tells her story in tune, guiding it all over the way, conjuring an irregular path through the complications of poverty, and finally landing on the right note, as if Will is more than destiny.

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but if”Coal miner’s daughter“The hallmark of Lynn, ‘The Pill’ was its triumph, and its legacy in the post-Ro America has become more complex than previously imagined. In 1975, “The Pill” was a controversial hit about her hard-earned liberties, and Lynn’s playful tone that conveys her liberating mood with grace and bounce. Listen to “The Pill” in 2022, and the flutter in her voice will sound nervous about anything coming next. Here’s something more messy: Lane was an early ardent supporter of Donald Trump, the candidate-turned-president who was eventually appointed by the Supreme Court. Raw vs. Wade, would help strip the very rights that her art eventually fought for. How do we begin to understand it?

It’s clear that the shape of Lynn’s legacy will ultimately be decided more by her music than by her political endorsements, and that’s okay, because her songs make the chronic problems in today’s country music industry seem so obvious. The inevitable lack of women’s voices in the contemporary country is not about establishing a superficial parity in radio. It’s about letting women tell stories that only women can tell. Isn’t country music supposed to be about telling the truth? Lynn told – often rightly, sometimes paradoxically – everyone. Let’s hear the rest.