From Kentucky Coal to a White House Medal: The Journey of Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn today was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama at the White House. The award, created by President John F. Kennedy, recognizes significant achievements in politics, world peace, science, culture and other fields and is the nation’s highest honor presented civilians.

An L.A. Times article by Randy Lewis elucidates “5 reasons Loretta Lynn earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” focusing on five of her songs where her very personal lyrics had profound political and social implications across the country. From her hardscrabble, yet loving upbringing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to her rejection of the passive female victim in “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ With Loving on Your Mind.”  For bringing to life (with humor) the hard lot of child-rearing in “One’s on the Way,” to unveiling the inequities of divorce in “Rated X.”  After the death of her husband, “Mooney,” she reflects on facing life without him in “Miss Being Mrs. Tonight.”

President Obama hailed Loretta Lynn as “the voice of a generation.” More accurately, she is the voice of generations of the poor and downtrodden, the neglected and abused, the overburdened and under-appreciated, the unjustly judged and wrongly condemned, the lonely souls whose best hope is to keep singing out until the day they are heard.


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