Local fan helps Loretta Lynn celebrate 50 years in musicWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave it to Loretta Lynn to remain low-key and humble about her 50th anniversary in show business.
The music icon’s career began in 1960. She’s looking back on a half-century spent as the undisputed queen of country music. And yet, the main emotion she conveyed in an interview with Toledo Free Press is being thrilled that people care so much.
“I really was kinda surprised when they started doing shows and doing things for me, because I really hadn’t realized it’s been that long,” she said. “But they didn’t let me forget too long. They let me know I’ve been in the business 50 years. It was nice that the people remembered and cared, you know? That’s what made it good.”
It isn’t just her legions of fans who have taken the time to honor Lynn’s monumental contributions. During the past few months, Lynn has seen numerous events hosted in commemoration of her contributions to music history — from a 50th anniversary bash at her home in Tennessee to a Grammy salute featuring Reba McEntire, Kid Rock, Gretchen Wilson, Garth Brooks and other stars.
“I thought that was something,” Lynn said of her anniversary duet with Brooks. “He flies in, and him working in Vegas, to do a song with me, and flies back. You can’t buy that kind of stuff. It’s not for sale.”
‘They already know me’
Longtime fan and Toledo native Rick Cornett said one of Lynn’s defining characteristics — one which has helped endear her to generations of fans — is her extreme level of generosity to her audience.
“She’s so humble. So down-to-earth. In all the years I’ve been following her, I’ve never seen her deny a fan an autograph, a photo opportunity. Just the realness of her — there’s no phoniness about her. I get to see her with no makeup on, no hairdo, rollers in her hair. There’s not many artists who would let fans see them that way.”
For Lynn, that level of personal access comes naturally. As far as she’s concerned, her fans practically know her as well as her friends do. From the beginning, Lynn’s music dealt with
issues that were extremely personal — controversy be damned.
“I didn’t know that people were thinking so much about it, till after it was over,” Lynn said. “I was just writing about my life and the way people live and everything, and I didn’t realize you just don’t get on records and say what you think. But it was a little late for me, because I started with ‘Honky Tonk Girl’ and ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ and my life was just kinda laid out.”
Lynn continued to explore hot-button issues during her career, singing frankly about subjects that had rarely been explored in country music, such as birth control, feminism and sexuality. But once more, Lynn modestly downplays her role as a trailblazer.
“People really jumped on the records — they made ’em bigger than they woulda been if they hadn’t said anything,” Lynn said. “If somebody else woulda done it, and not said anything, it wouldn’t have been half as big.”
Her straightforward attitude about life and saying what she thinks is why she feels such a connection to her crowds.
“Everybody that’s in the audience, I know who they’re coming to see. And I know who they’re coming to see because I pretty well laid my life out there. And whoever’s at the show, I feel like they already know me. So, I just do my show for them, whatever they wanna hear.”
Four decades as a fan
For Cornett, there is no price tag for how much his relationship with the music legend has meant. During the course of nearly four decades, Cornett has been one of Lynn’s most enthusiastic fans. He has seen her in concert 400 times. He ran her international fan club for several years. He publishes an online newsletter with 4,000 subscribers.
His ongoing support has led to a personal relationship with Lynn and her family. At Lynn’s 50th anniversary party, it was Cornett’s honor to present her with a special fan appreciation award.
“Her daughter Patsy called me and said there was a media presentation, and other celebrities, but they wanted something on behalf of the fans. So they asked me to do it.
“It was a thrill. It was like a career highlight of my fandom with her to be able to stand up in front of all of her family and a ton of media people and do that for her.”
The thrills were not over for Cornett — during the course of the next few weeks, he would be tapped to crown Lynn “Queen of Country Music” during an October show and was also present for the Grammy celebration in her honor.
“She never changed. She’s the same Loretta that she was in the ’60s. She’s approachable. She never got above the culture and the places and the people that made her a star.”
The best is yet to come
The anniversary celebration has only just begun for Lynn. On Nov. 9, a new album, “Coal Miner’s Daughter: An All-Star Tribute to Loretta Lynn” will be released, featuring performances by Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Allison Moorer, Paramore, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, The White Stripes, Lucinda Williams, Gretchen Wilson and Lee Ann Womack.
Lynn said the idea for the new album had been tossed around for a while, though she seemed touched by how many artists were enthusiastic about the project. “You didn’t have to go out and beg ‘em, they were ready-set-go, you know?”
Then, Nov. 10, at the Country Music Association awards, a special tribute to Lynn will take place — another chance for fans, friends, family and peers to let the Coal Miner’s Daughter know how much she has meant to them.
She has remained prolific in the studio as well. Back in 2004, Lynn wowed audiences and critics alike with the Grammy-winning “Van Lear Rose,” produced by Jack White of The White Stripes. Today, in addition to the tribute album, Lynn has been recording new songs for future projects.
“I’ve got 30-some things already in the can, and I’m going back in to record more,” she said. “I’ve been recording for the last year or so, me and Shawn Camp, he’s a writer, and we’ve been writing together.”
And Lynn’s relationship with her audience has never been stronger — especially now that she can see the effect her music has on fans of all ages.
“People that came to see me 50 years ago still come out to see me — them, their daughter and their daughter’s kids. Now it’s just tripled, you know? So, it’s just great, it’s really great, when you have three generations out there.”
Tags: Alan Jackson, Allison Moorer, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Gretchen Wilson, Kid Rock, Lee Ann Womack, Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Paramore, Reba McEntire, Rick Cornett, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, The White Stripes