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Loretta Lynn, dead at 90, was unapologetic in our 1987 interview: 'I've had eight of my songs banned!'

San Diego Union Tribune logo San Diego Union Tribune 10/4/2022 George Varga
Loretta Lynn waves to the crowd after performing during the 2014 Americana Music Honors and Awards show in Nashville. Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner's daughter who became a pillar of country music, died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. She was 90. (Mark Zaleski / Associated Press) © (Mark Zaleski / Associated Press) Loretta Lynn waves to the crowd after performing during the 2014 Americana Music Honors and Awards show in Nashville. Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner's daughter who became a pillar of country music, died Tuesday at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. She was 90. (Mark Zaleski / Associated Press)

There aren't any country-music stars today like Loretta Lynn, the legendary singer-songwriter who died Tuesday in her sleep at the age of 90 at her Tennesse home in Hurricane Mills.

But there weren't any country-music stars like Lynn when she rose to fame in the 1960s, propelled by such classic songs as "You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man)" and "Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)."

"I've had eight of my songs banned, and all eight went to No. 1!" she said in a 1987 interview with the San Diego Union. "As soon as I heard one of my songs got banned, I knew it would go to the top of the charts!

"I was saying things girls weren't supposed to say, but I didn't realize they weren't supposed to say it because I got married at 13 and had kids. I hadn't been out in the world and hadn't realized I'd upset people. I think everybody was taking the pill but me, and I've got the family to prove it!"

Lynn didn't water down her words in song or in conversation. Here is our 1987 interview with her in its entirety.

What kind of woman is Loretta? One who always says exactly what she feels

BY GEORGE VARGA, June 26, 1987, The San Diego Union

The Beastie Boys have had several of their obscenity-riddled shows canceled. Prince and Ozzy Osbourne have been attacked by fundamentalists for corrupting youth.

But when it comes to having records banned from radio airplay, none of them can top country-music queen Loretta Lynn, whose down-home charm has always been tempered by her no-nonsense spunk.

"I've had eight of my songs banned, and all eight went to No. 1!" America's most famous coal miner's daughter said recently. "As soon as I heard one of my songs got banned, I knew it would go to the top of the charts!"

Does this mean that Lynn, still a top concert attraction but hitless for several years, is working on getting a new song banned?

"I never wanted them banned," stressed the dark-haired singer-songwriter, who performs at the Del Mar Fair's Grandstand Stage Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.

"All people listened to was the title of the songs. One song (that got banned) was 'Rated X.' It was a good song for women who had gotten divorced. It was saying, 'Hey, just because I got divorced, I'm not that kind of a girl.'

"Then 'What Kind of a Girl Do You Think I Am?' was banned. So was 'Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind),' because of the 'lovin' on your mind' line. What can you do?"

Lynn wisely ignores such controversies, but that hasn't stopped her from speaking her mind. Not long after the release of her first major record, 1960's "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," she began addressing timely issues, including infidelity, divorce and birth control. In each instance, she expressed her views with insight and dignity, singing with both strength and sensitivity.

It wasn't long before Lynn assumed the mantle previously held by Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells as the top female artist in country music. But she was the first in her field to assert that women were as capable of determining their own destinies as any man.

By today's standards, the messages in many of her songs seem quaint, if not whimsical. But in the 1960s, the country music establishment considered Lynn a backwoods radical.

"There were a lot of other women singing country before me besides Patsy and Kitty, like Jean Shepard, Dottie West and Tammy (Wynette). I think I just came into Nashville and said in my songs something a little different than what they was doing," said Lynn, whose Kentucky drawl is still as thick and sweet as molasses.

"I was saying things girls weren't supposed to say, but I didn't realize they weren't supposed to say it because I got married at 13 and had kids. I hadn't been out in the world and hadn't realized I'd upset people. I think everybody was taking the pill but me, and I've got the family to prove it!"

"The Pill" was unarguably Lynn's most controversial hit, since even the idea of a country music song endorsing birth control was unthinkable during the late '60s and early '70s.

What gave "The Pill" and her other topical songs added impact was the woman behind them. Lynn, after all, was and is a happily married mother who epitomizes the virtues of American family life. Had she been a strident feminist, her views probably would have been dismissed by conservative country-music listeners.

"I do consider myself to be a role model," she said. "Because before that there wasn't anything that had much going for women in country music. I get mail all the time begging me for help, and I write back and tell them how it is.

"It's really rough, but there are two things that never change -- love and the No. 1 best-seller book, and that's the Bible."

Asked what are keys to a successful marriage, Lynn replied: "Well, it's harder to stay married than it is to get divorced. You have to bend with the wind and rock with the tide. It isn't a one-way thing; marriage is a two-way street.

"When you marry a man you have to work things out between the two of you; a marriage counselor won't do you a darn bit of good. You have to care enough to care."

The second of eight children, Loretta Webb grew up in the desolate Kentucky community of Butcher's Holler. Her family was dirt poor, but bonded together by their strong love for one another.

It was not until after she married Mooney Lynn in 1948 that Loretta first saw a paved road. Ditto for telephones, radios, televisions and houses with electricity.

In the years since, she has earned international fame, raised a large family, acquired substantial real estate holdings and been the subject of the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter." But her music and her life still reflect her simple upbringing.

"I'm still the same person I was the day I began singing," she affirmed. "If there are any changes, they are in someone else's mind. I have a lot more money now, and I'm glad that I do, but I work much harder.

"I don't have to work now, but I don't want to sit down, either, because I'm too young. My life story was written before it should've been. I was just 32. I'm writing another book right now that will start with my first memory when I was 2 years old. It will tell things that mean a lot more to me. There were so many things I didn't say in the first book. My next book will have more of me and who I am. The truth is always better than fiction — or friction!"

On her most recent album, Lynn experimented with various pop approaches but is still a leading exponent of unadulterated country music. Does she regard the current neotraditional movement as a response to the city-slicker country crossover sound so popular in recent years?

"Country is cornbread, and I don't think there's any difference in it," she said. " I like to sing country music; I like to do what I like to do. Country is a lot harder than pop to sing. That's why a lot of pop singers don't do country stuff very often. I think it separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls, when you put country against pop.

"A pop song, like: 'Lil' Darlin' yeah, yeah, yeah'; it don't really tell a message. I love to listen to it, but if you want to hear a story, turn on your country radio station. You'll laugh and you'll cry, you'll hear funny stuff and sad stuff, and I do them both. I do anything people want to hear."

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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