Being a fan of country music isn't necessary to appreciate the genre's queen, the Coal Miner's Daughter Loretta Lynn.
Loretta Lynn was a trailblazer during the height of her fame in the 1960s and 1970s--a "conservative feminist" who railed against the chic Madison Avenue women's lib-ism of the period and whose music sought to remind America of the struggles of working-class moms in flyover country. (Her first band, appropriately enough, was named Loretta and the Trailblazers.)
Raised dirt poor, she was a self-professed "advocate for ordinary women" who didn't want to infuse politics into her work, but was unafraid to speak out through her music on issues she felt needed the spotlight.
Ms. Lynn is best known for "Coal Miner's Daughter," the autobiographical 1970 hit that led to stardom and helped turn country music mainstream. Her autobiography of the same name, published in 1976, was made into 1980's best picture-nominated film that stars Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.
Americans of a certain age, whether or not they cared for Lynn's music, identify with the movie. It was that big.
One of our favorite lines from the film comes courtesy of Ms. Spacek, who perfectly channeled Loretta to shut down an argument with husband Doo (Tommy Lee Jones) in that distinct Appalachian accent: "An' stop that growlin'. You sound like a big ol' bar."
Another favorite, again Loretta to Doo, bickering over where to put the bedroom in a new house he was building for her: "I don't want no divorce! I just want the dadgum bedroom in the back of the house!"
Ms. Lynn, who married the real-life Doo at age 15, had four kids by the time she launched her recording career. Her songs spoke plainly, sometimes on highly controversial subjects for the time. Topics even rock stars tended to avoid. "The Pill," well, is pretty self-explanatory.
Other country hits for Lynn: "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" and "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)." Is there a song-title Hall of Fame?
Her long-standing partnership with Conway Twitty led to five consecutive No. 1 hits in the early '70s as a duo. Arkansas rightly claims Mr. Twitty--real name Harold Lloyd Jenkins--who was born in Mississippi and reared in Helena. It was there he launched his first band, the Phillips County Ramblers.
(The story goes, when then-Mr. Jenkins was trying to come up with a stage name, he looked at a map and his eyes were drawn to Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas. Works for us.)
Loretta Lynn would be a shoo-in for country music's Mount Rushmore. Her career spanned six decades, and she was revered in the music industry for her singing and songwriting right up till her death. She released her 50th studio album last year, "Still Woman Enough," 60 years after her debut record, "Loretta Lynn Sings."
Notoriously devoted to her fans, she once told a reporter, "These people are my fans . . . I'll stay here until the very last one wants my autograph. Without these people, I am nobody. I love these people."
The Coal Miner's Daughter died peacefully in her sleep at home in Tennessee, presumably in a bedroom located in the back of the house, a life well lived.