So what did I do? I made a 96 song playlist of youtube videos of the original recordings or live performances from the time, and started listening. Only, I didn't get very far, as I got a little hung up on a memory when I saw this gorgeous gal.
The hair! The clothes! And the singular woman holding a guitar and smiling wide as she sings songs about threatening to beat the tar out of a woman who may be stepping out with her man, but is certainly no rival. Vive Loretta!
I read Coal Miner's Daughter when I was "stationed" as a residential Girl Scout counselor for eight weeks the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I picked it up at Music City Thrift in Madison the week before (on a brief, civilian furlough... remind me never to commit to more than a week of outdoor living in the future...?) mainly because I was impressed that a brand new, latest edition copy of it was sitting on the shelf for less than two dollars. Was I riveted? I was riveted. Between explaining to ten year olds that "ladybugs are not poisonous, nor can they sting you" and walking junior troops to and from the archery range/rock climbing wall/kayak station, I fell instantly in love with the down home, conversational tone of the 1976 autobiography, which takes us from Loretta's childhood in rural, Appalachian Kentucky to her marriage, at 13, to Doolittle Lynn, (she had four kids before turning 19!), to her eventual meteoric rise to the title she holds today, "The First Lady of Country Music".
I remembered her as a triptych of herself (in concert), Sissy Spacek as her (in the Oscar winning movie version of LL's autobiography), and Ronee Blakely as "kind of like her" (in Altman's Nashville):
Sky high hair (the higher the hair, the closer to heaven?), chaste full-length formals big on lace and ruffles... that's the Loretta Lynn I usually think of. But look at these great appearances on the Wilburn Brothers show and other country music variety programs in the early and late 1960's! The hair varies in volume, but the clothes! I was sincerely impressed by both the overall look, and the great energy she brought to singing her self-penned songs about a man that just couldn't do right.
My favorite one was hard to get a screen capture of, but here's the best result. Just a plain A-line dress in the sky blue that favors her own light colored eyes, BUT THEN capped off in fingers thick sequins. Bravo, miss.
It's like my A #1 dream dress. And the hair! Sometimes it gets a little out of hand, but for the most part, I love that bubbled, teased into submission mane of both "up-do" and length. I think a serious beehive, or some kind of variation on this helmet, is the next frontier in my toying with my elbow-length hair. I was complaining the other day that I am INCAPABLE of teasing my hair to the proper volume without that it looks weirdly "see-through"... do you know what I mean? The whole point of the hair do is to show off a mountain of thick, luscious hair (and my hair is by no means fine), but I think I might seek both synthetic hair and professional assistance to build this ambitious coiffure. Below... success of the highest order. I know there's lots of rolling and teasing involved... but I'm ready to sign on.
She sticks with the blue and the sequins in different variations for several outfits-- here's a darker shade covered in patterned beading, below. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. She has her Scotch-Irish and Cherokee heritage to thank for her dark hair and strong cheekbones... and isn't it a striking sort of face? She doesn't share the conventional prettiness of the 30's movie star she was named after, Loretta Young (who also, on her tv show in the 50's anyway, had a penchant for long, gauzy dresses, come to think of it), but Loretta Lynn does have a very particular look. And that 1,000 watt smile! Which she is not at all hesitant in sharing with her fans.
Also, can we take a moment to consider her two song cycle of "You Ain't Woman Enough" (1966) and "Fist City" (1968)?
Excerpted from the former:
Sometimes a man's caught lookin'
At things that he don't need
He took a second look at you
But he's in love with me
Well, I don't know where that leaves you
Ah, but I know where I stand
And you ain't woman enough
To take my man
Women like you they're a dime a dozen
You can buy 'em anywhere
For you to get to him
I'd have to move over
And I'm gonna stand right here
It'll be over my dead body
So get out while you can
'Cause you ain't woman enough
To take my man
And from the latter:
You've been makin' your brags around town that you've been a lovin' with my man
But the man I love when he picks up trash he puts it in a garbage can
And that's what you look like to me and what I see is a pity
You'd better close your face and stay out of my way
If you don't wanna go to Fist City
If you don't wanna go to Fist City you'd better detour round my town
Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head and I'll lift you off of the ground
I'm not a sayin' my baby is a saint cause he ain't
And that he won't cat around with a kitty
I'm here to tell you gal to lay off of my man if you don't wanna go to Fist City
I just can't get over the idea that behind those cornflower blue eyes is a SCRAPPER. "Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head and I'll lift you off of the ground" ?! It paints this great picture of a fierce, unflustered, unashamed woman who might have a cheating husband, but he's HER cheating husband, and if you want to make a move on him, you're going to to have to go through her. The line "You ain't woman enough to take my man"! I just can't say enough about it, so I won't. But what kind of light years is this from the woman in the long dress with the very public breakdown in front of thousands at the apex of her career, which has kind of become shorthand for the whole Coal Miner's Daughter movie? And which is the entire concept of the inspired-by character I mentioned from Nashville? That doesn't seem to be the "real" Loretta Lynn... a much stronger, complex woman stands behind a life story that really does read like a book. It's fascinating.
Below, more great hair, and another red sequined dress.
This hair has gotten a little out of control, but I'm still kind of envious. Note the perfectly geometric shape of it! Almost like a uniform hat of some kind. Did you also know (courtesy of Wikipedia) :
- Although Kitty Wells had become the first major female country vocalist during the 1950s, by the time Lynn recorded her first record, only three other women - Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, and Jean Shepard - had become top stars. By the end of 1962, it was clear that Lynn was on her way to becoming the fourth. Lynn credits Cline as her mentor and best friend during those early years, and as fate would have it, Lynn would follow her as the most popular country vocalist of the early 1960s and 1970s.
- Loretta Lynn possibly had more banned songs than any other artist in the history of country music, including "Rated "X"," about the double standards divorced women face, "Wings Upon Your Horns," about the loss of teenage virginity, and "The Pill", lyrics by T. D. Bayless, about a wife and mother becoming liberated via the birth control pill. Her song, "Dear Uncle Sam", released in 1966 during the Vietnam War, describes a wife's anguish at the loss of a husband to war.
See what I mean by being "more than the dress"? Though gosh, aren't the dresses nice. I'm still coveting. Just respectfully coveting.
A softer look, plus more sequins. I wasn't able to get shots of the shoes in most of these, but let it be known that they were usually either matched to the color of the outfit or gold. Wise choices, in my book.
And last but not least, a great, happy looking picture, with her signature, name-tooled guitar strap (you also see photos of her with her name running the length of the guitar neck... STYLE). How could you not like this face?
For more info, check out the 1995 documentary "Honky Tonk Girl" on youtube. And treat yourself to a live version or two of these songs! You really will thank yourself for taking the time. I might not have found a song to do at karaoke tonight (yet), but I did have fun wading around in facts about this country music legend. And now I have to read Still Woman Enough!
Til next time! And have a happy fourth!
(PS: Cutest intro ever above... who is this blue jacketed man? I feel like I ought to know!)