Upon the passing of this music icon there have been many well deserved tributes to her amazing life and career. As my area of expertise if I may be so bold to say lies in the arena of cover songs, I’d like to take a look at her songs through that lens. She was a rarity in her time for more than one reason but mostly because she wrote her own songs. Not many women in music get that chance. Oh I know you will be able to mention dozens of examples from Dolly Parton to Joni Mitchell but I am here to say they are rare individuals. Loretta defied the convention of Country Music that songwriters write and singers sing. For the most part, again Dolly aside the few that were ‘allowed’ the opportunity to sing their own songs were men. We can all name many of the male contemporaries of Loretta Lynn, all are legendary singer songwriters of County Music, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson and so many more. For women the list is much shorter. Aside from Loretta and again Dolly Parton, if you look at many lists of Country Music writers most of the rest of the women are well out of the top 50. I have talked about Cindy Walker and although she is a capable singer and musician she is mostly known for the hundreds of songs she wrote/co-wrote, but she is well down the lists, as is Rosanne Cash.
So for this reason alone Loretta has accomplished something quite exceptional. She and another legend Conway Twitty combined to win a Grammy with a song written by L.E. White, “After the Fire is Gone” and it is a Country Classic. Let’s take a look at some of the covers of her more memorable self penned hits. She wrote over 100 songs and recorded most of them, to date 87 have been covered by other artists, this is including the few songs she originally recorded but did not write. She herself recorded 262 cover songs. Her most covered song at 76 versions is “You Ain’t Woman Enough” from 1966. Most famously sung by Sissy Spacek from the movie and Soundtrack Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980). The list of names that covered this song is like a who’s who list of Country greats like Dottie West, Skeeter Davis, Lynn Anderson and Martina McBride. But this list is not exclusive to women, nor the Country genre. In 1967 Warner Mack reworked the song (as was common) to come from the male perspective “There Ain’t No Woman Enough (To Take Your Man)”, and both the Grateful Dead and Asleep at the Wheel covered it. Outside of Country there was Connie Stevens and Tina Turner. A one album wonder from Japan Yoshie Sakamoto did an amazing job on her album Someday from 2013.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter” has been covered 22 times, Norma Jean has covered many of Loretta’s songs and does an exceptional job from her 1971 album Norma Jean. Perhaps my favorite Loretta song is “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” from 1966 and it has been covered 21 times. Her sister Peggy Sue co-wrote the song and recorded it in 1970. I am a Terri Clark fan so here is her cover from 2012, she is awesome btw. Another great song “Fist City” has been covered 16 times, here is one from The Little Willies with the great Norah Jones on lead vocals. So many amazing songs to talk about but I will leave you with “Honky Tonk Girl” which was the first song she released in 1960. Covered by Elvis Costello in 1982.
Rest in Peace Loretta.