Brian Dugger – Scripps Howard
Loretta Lynn’s knee is aching. Pain left behind by a recent surgery woke her up overnight. Her doctor told her the shredded cartilage he found “looked like a dog had gotten a hold of it.”
But the pain is decreasing every day, and she’s betting she won’t have any problems by the time she resumes her touring schedule.
Meanwhile, she’s been splashing paint on an easel at her Hurricane Mills, Tenn., home, but getting just as much on the floor and on her clothes.
“I’m trying to paint some flowers. I figure if I make a mistake, I can always make the flower bigger,” she said with a laugh.
Lynn celebrated 50 years as an entertainer last year; in 1960, she released her first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Music was never the plan because she married Doolittle Lynn when she was young and started having kids.
“By 21, I had all four kids in school, then got pregnant with twins, so I said the next one’s going to be a litter, so I better stop right here.”
She interrupted a discussion about her early career to tell a story about the man to whom she was married for almost 50 years; he died in 1996.
“One day he said he was going to get me a diamond for my birthday. It was so daggone little I needed a spyglass to see that thing. He came home and said, ‘It’s just a waste of money to buy stuff like this.’ I looked at that thing and thought, ‘Yes, it was.’ But I didn’t tell him that,” she said, chuckling.
If Lynn ever censors herself, it’s not evident. She spins anecdotes, tells jokes and pokes fun at herself, and even at some of her 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
It’s that honesty and candor that has contributed to her success. No topic is out of bounds when it comes to her songwriting. After she caught a woman flirting with Doo, she wrote “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).” One of her most controversial and biggest hits was “The Pill.”
“Every woman I knew back then was taking the pill. I had the kids to prove I wasn’t taking it. I couldn’t figure out why it was such a big deal ‘cuz everyone was taking it,” she said.
Lynn has recorded more than 50 albums, including a dozen with Conway Twitty, a collaboration that produced five No. 1 hits, including “After the Fire Is Gone.” Twitty died in 1993.
“I sure miss ol’ Conway,” she said. “He was the greatest singer in the world when it came to country music.”
She has equally kind words for another man she collaborated with, Ernest Tubb. “He was one of the greatest guys in the world. If you couldn’t get along with Ernest Tubb, then you shouldn’t be out in public.”
Although it took her until her mid-20s to begin her career, Lynn doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. She is touring in a new bus, she’ll be releasing a religious album and an album of new material later this year, and she’s got a full schedule of shows, including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., in June.
At that event she’ll be part of a lineup that includes Eminem, Lil Wayne and the Black Keys.
“They better all sing good. They wouldn’t want me to outdraw them,” she cracks.
Retiring isn’t imminent, and she seems surprised anyone would consider it an option.
“Why would I stop? When I wanted to quit — when I had all my kids and I needed to stay home — everyone was pushing me out on the road. I got through that. Why quit now?”