It’s been 50 years since singer Loretta Lynn penned her first chart-topping song. Now more than 160 original songs, 70-plus albums and 50-plus hit songs later, Lynn is 75 years old and still performing, charming fans with her trademark country honesty and sultry voice. Lynn takes the stage at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Friday night and spoke recently about her music and career.
Question: Your ranch suffered in the recent Nashville floods.
Answer: There’s a half-block of the road missing, but we’re working on it and should be open again real soon.
Q: Is it 50 years since your first big hit? It hardly seems possible.
A: Well, that’s what I’m thinking, too (laughter). I think it was 1961. “Honky Tonk Girl” was my first record out. It hit the top 10 across the nation. It was on a little label called Zero, and zero is what it made me. It did hit the charts, though.
Q: You were a voice for everyday women, a feminist before some people knew what that term meant.
A: I didn’t even know what that meant, to tell you the truth, I just sing like I believe. I believe if you sing what you think, people can tell if you mean it or not. Like the pill, that sure was a good thing, I thought, when it come along. You could tell I didn’t take it ’cause I had the kids to prove it (her song “The Pill” was a controversial major hit in 1975).
Q: When did you start writing?
A: I’ve written most of my songs. I wrote my first hit. I was the only girl to come to Nashville then doing that. I lived out in the state of Washington, but I was born and raised in Kentucky. I got married at 13 — of course, I was too young to get married, but I had four kids by the time I was 21. Then I had twins after I started singing and I thought … somebody better do something, they are coming in pairs, next it will be a litter. But I started singing and writing the way I felt at home. If Doolittle (her late husband) went out on Friday and didn’t come back until Monday, why he heard about it. And so did the whole world (laughter).
Q: Background accompaniment has changed so much over the years. What will it sound like at the concert?
A: I have my own band, and we try to play it on stage just like it sounded on the record. So you can hear all kinds of sounds on the stage. It will be stuff I’ve recorded now and stuff I recorded back then, when I started singing.
Q: Will you take requests and talk to the audience?
A: I sure will. They come to hear a song, and I don’t want to leave without singing it to them.
Q: What was it like to record “Van Lear Rose” (2004) with Jack White (White Stripes)?
A: It was great. I don’t know that much about rock music. I like some of it, but I didn’t even know Jack. When we started working together, I thought he was such a sweet kid. He came in, and I think he cut the “countriest” record I’ve ever done. That’s what he wanted, and he did. On the song “Portland Oregon,” he sang on the verse and chorus with me.
Q: You recently released some of your performances from “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Are you doing anything new?
A: I have 50-some new things cut. Every time I come in, I cut something. I’m cutting all my No. 1 hits over, all my top fives, a Christmas album and two new religious albums. We’re fixing to spring them on you (laughter). You can’t get all the old hits from MCA anymore. They don’t have them out. I’m cutting them all over, and they’ll be mine. You’ll be getting my records on my label.
Q: What are your topics these days?
A: Anything commercial I can think of. When you get too old to think commercial, you’re too old (laughing). You need to quit singing or doing anything when you get that old.
Q: People are excited you are coming to Asheville.
A: I’ll be there with bells on, and I’ll sing like they want to hear.
Q: Anything you want fans to know?
A: Well, we’ll just let them be surprised at the concert.