Already a mother of four by the time she was 20, Loretta Lynn drew from her Kentucky roots and life as a young wife and mother to write and record songs that spoke to the American woman. Over her 50 year career, Lynn racked up 24 No. 1 singles and became one of the most influential artists in country music.
Lynn wasn’t one to shy away from singing about issues facing everyday people. She sang about the Vietnam War (“Dear Uncle Sam”), sexism (“Rated X”) and contraception (“The Pill”). Her talent and fearlessness have continued to inspire the artists who’ve followed in her shoes. Here are the 15 best Loretta Lynn songs, ranked.
Written by Kenny O’Dell, “Trouble in Paradise” was Lynn’s eighth No. 1 single. The grooved-up 1974 single found Lynn exploring familiar themes of infidelity.
Lynn was proud of her Kentucky holler roots and she made it clear in her 1971 hit “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” Lynn has said that she got the inspiration to write the song while touring throughout the states.
Before she burned up the charts with Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn recorded a series of duets with her friend Ernest Tubb. “Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be,” from the album of the same name, hit No. 11 on the country charts in 1964.
Lynn’s 1973 hit “Hey Loretta,” penned by Shel Silverstein, features some of the singer’s most daring lines. Fed up with being treated like a maid by her husband, the song’s narrator threatens to leave him for a brand new life filled with new men and more glamour. “You can feed the chickens/you can milk the cow,” Lynn sings with a wink. “This woman’s liberation is gonna start right now.”
Written and recorded by Lynn in 1972, “Rated X” detailed the double standards placed upon women. Though it was considered controversial at the time, that didn’t stop it from going to No. 1 on the country charts.
Lynn and Conway Twitty were frequent duet partners throughout the 1970s and ’80s, scoring hits with “After the Fire is Gone” and “As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone.” The rollicking “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” the dynamic duo’s third single, went to No. 1 in 1973.
Written by Johnny Mullins, “Blue Kentucky Girl” was released by Lynn in 1965 and became one of her earliest top 10 hits.
Teaming up with producer Jack White, Lynn released her album Van Lear Rose in 2004. The record is a collection of Lynn’s memories of growing up in Van Lear, Kentucky. From heartbreak (“Miss Being Mrs.”) to spellbinding spoken word (“Little Red Shoes”), the album is Lynn at her best. But perhaps the album’s brightest moment is the revved up duet between Lynn and White, “Portland, Oregon.”
Another track penned by Shel Silverstein, “One’s on the Way” is a tongue-in-cheek look into the life of a overworked mid-western mother who spends her days comparing her life to the lives of various glamorous women, from Jackie Kennedy to Elizabeth Taylor.
One of many songs inspired by Lynn’s marriage to Doolittle Lynn, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” was Lynn’s first No. 1 hit.
One of the first songs Lynn ever wrote, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” was released in 1960. Lynn and her husband traveled across the United States to self-promote the single at various radio stations. By the time the couple arrived in Nashville, the song was a hit.
One of the few country songs to openly discuss birth control, “The Pill” is one of Lynn’s most controversial songs. The song was a top 5 hit in 1975 and is considered one of Lynn’s signature songs.
One of her sassiest songs ever recorded, “Fist City” found Lynn ready to do battle with a woman showing a little too much interest in her husband. The song hit No. 1 in 1968.
Another feisty track that proved to any doubters that Lynn was not to be messed with, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” went to No. 2 in 2966. Lynn’s close friend and mentor Patsy Cline encouraged her to release the song.
Her most autobiographic song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” captures what we all love about Loretta Lynn: her talent, songwriting prowess, honesty and appreciation for her roots. In just three minutes, the song sums up Lynn’s incredible life and the career that made her a country icon.