Country music legend Loretta Lynn recounts the amazing journey of life though her lyrics in “Honky Tonk Girl.” Here’s an excerpt.
This is me. Loretta.
And this whole book is me, too. These lyrics cover fifty years of my sittin’ down with my pencil and my guitar and writing about my life.
As I write this, I’ve just survived a flood and tornadoes in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. I’ve survived a lot of things in my lifetime. And I guess that’s what most of these songs are about: survivin’.
I wrote my very first lyric when I wrote “Whispering Sea.” It wound up being the B-side of “Honky Tonk Girl.” Me and my husband were livin’ in the state of Washington, and one day we went fishing. I don’t know why I just sat down and wrote a song. But I remember being shocked that those lyrics just came pourin’ out of me. I also remember how excited I was. And you know what? I get the same sense of excitement when I write a song today. It’s just as strong as it was then. And it stirs up just as much emotion.
Whatever I feel that day and that moment, that’s what I write. I put my whole heart and soul and body into my writing. I write about how I feel and what I am. I guess I never need to go to a psychiatrist — ‘cause I get everything out in my lyrics. I guess when you boil it all down, every song is about me. It’s my eyes that are seein’ what I write about. And my heart that’s feelin’ all those things.
I think the saddest song I ever wrote was “This Haunted House,” right after Patsy Cline passed away. I was over at her house and then went into the driveway and wrote the song. And strangely enough, the song that maybe makes me the happiest is “Two Steps Forward and Six Steps Back Again.” That’s a real old one — probably close to fifty years old — and I don’t know why I think it’s happy ‘cause it’s all about cheatin’. But I just love singing it.
I guess I’ve written everything in between those two songs, too. As I said, I’m writing about me and my life, and life ain’t simple all the time. Like the songs, life is happy and sad and all that stuff in between.
I feel good that I’ve written so many songs. I’m a little amazed that I’ve been doin’ it as long as I have. And looking back on all these lyrics made me realize several things. One is that there ain’t nothing in life that brings me as much joy as writing. I’d rather write than sing, even though I haven’t written much over the past couple of years. But the good things about doing this book is it made me realize how much I want to keep writing. So that’s what I’m going to do from here on.
I hope that all these songs — the ones in this book and the ones I’m going to write in the future — make people as happy as they make me.
Van Lear Rose Project
Sometimes people come into your life that you would never expect. That’s what Jack White did. Who would have ever thought I would have a record with a rock and roller from Detroit? Not me. But I sure am glad I did.
Jack grew up in Detroit , Michigan. He was from a big family, just like me. He went to the movie theaters and saw my movie Coal Miner’s Daughter. He said it changed his life. He became a big fan of my songs and songwriting. He and Meg even dedicated their White Stripes record to me (White Blood Cells). They wrote me a letter and sent me the record. Well, I have to say I never heard of them. But I loved the CD. My manager at the time, Nancy Russell, called and set up a day for Jack and Meg to come see me at my ranch in Hurricane Mills. I made them dinner—chicken and dumplings and my homemade bread. Jack still says that it was the best bread he ever ate. I gave little Meg one of my old stage dresses to wear. Bless her heart, she just cried. Meg is so sweet. I had been telling Patsy I wanted to start recording and make another record soon. So I had all my songs out, trying to get them together and sort through them, when Nancy called and asked if I would plan a show in New York with Jack and Meg. I said, “Sure.”
What fun we had. If ya’ll ain’t never seen Jack and Meg, you should. It’s just little Meg on drums and Jack. Let me tell you that boy can sing and play his guitar. But it’s rock and roll, not country. I told Jack I was getting ready to record my songs. He said he’d love to work with me on doing that. Nancy Russell set it up, and the rest is history. The album is called Van Lear Rose, and Jack recorded fifteen songs. He only wanted to record songs I had written. I had only done that one time before, on my very first record. We recorded in this old house in east Nashville. I swear I thought that house was going to fall in around us. Jack picked out the players and what songs he wanted, and I sang them. We recorded the whole dang record in two weeks. I only got to sing the songs one or two times. Every time I would sing something, Jack would say, “I love it.” I thought Jack was like a young Owen Bradley. He wants you to just be who you are and do what you do. I am telling you he is great. I love him so much. We are really great friends now.
And we won two Grammys for Van Lear Rose.