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Photo by Sylvia Pitcher/Redferns

Loretta Lynn's Banned Song 'The Pill' Shook Up Radio and Changed Country Music


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Loretta Lynn was never a stranger to controversial lyrics with songs such as "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)," "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man"), "Fist City,"  and many more. The Country Music Hall of Fame-member lived by "three chords and the truth," often drawing from her own life experiences as a young wife and mother when writing her future hits.

"I just write what I feel, what is going on with me and my life," the country singer told Parade in 2021. "It just happened that a lot of other women felt the same. I would never set out to write something just for it to shock someone; I am not that clever. It's always been about truth and if that means radio wants to ban it, well that's their problem. Most of my records they banned became No. 1 anyway."

In 1972, Lynn, along with Lorene Allen, Don McHan, and T. D. Bayless, certainly wrote what she felt when she penned a little country song called "The Pill," featured on her studio album Back to the Country, which would prove to be one of Lynn's most controversial -- and most groundbreaking -- songs. After it was finally recorded in 1975, the song's lyrics about a wife who's liberated by contraception caused quite the ruckus in the conservative country music scene.

'Now I've Got the Pill'

In 1975, birth control had been available to the public for almost a decade. Following the song's release, Lynn was praised by doctors who had been trying to promote the birth control pill for so many years. It captured such a "hush-hush" topic that she actually helped get the word out to many women in rural areas.

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While the mid-'70s weren't the beginning of the sexual or feminist revolutions, Lynn's song sure did fit the mold of the times. This song told the story many married women, including Lynn, knew all too well: when they were just a kid themselves, they started having kids and were bound to the life of being stuck at home with a baby on their hip. Not only did men never have to experience this motherhood sentence, but they also didn't want their wives thinking they had control of their own lives. "The Pill" added to the conversation that women were equal -- in the bedroom and beyond.

Women took the song to heart, not only because it spoke to them directly, but also because the Coal Miner's Daughter was singing from experience.

"If I'd had the pill back when I was havin' babies I'd have taken 'em like popcorn," Lynn once told PEOPLE magazine (quote via The New Yorker.) The pill is good for people. I wouldn't trade my kids for anyone's. But I wouldn't necessarily have had six and I sure would have spaced 'em better."

Though Lynn was a frequent performer on the Grand Ole Opry (she was inducted into the Opry in 1962), the organization wasn't too keen on her performing the beloved song.

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"You know I sung it three times at the Grand Ole Opry one night, and I found out a week later that the Grand Ole Opry had a three-hour meeting, and they weren't going to let me," Lynn told Playgirl magazine in 1975 (quote via American Songwriter.) "If they hadn't let me sing the song, I'd have told them to shove the Grand Ole Opry!"

Due to the controversy surrounding its lyrics and message, the song had been banned from playing on many radio playlists, which prevented it from reaching the top of the charts. Thankfully, controversy spikes curiosity. Record sales eventually boosted, and the song became Lynn's highest-charting solo single. The song reached the No. 70 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first popular song about birth control.

 

'The Pill' lyrics:

You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I'd be your wife
You'd show me the world
But all I've seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
I'm tearin' down your brooder house
'Cause now I've got the pill

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All these years I've stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year that's gone by
Another baby's come
There's a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You've set this chicken your last time
'Cause now I've got the pill

This old maternity dress I've got
Is goin' in the garbage
The clothes I'm wearin' from now on
Won't take up so much yardage
Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I'm makin' up for all those years
Since I've got the pill

I'm tired of all your crowin'
How you and your hens play
While holdin' a couple in my arms
Another's on the way
This chicken's done tore up her nest
And I'm ready to make a deal
And ya can't afford to turn it down
'Cause you know I've got the pill

This incubator is overused
Because you've kept it filled
The feelin' good comes easy now
Since I've got the pill
It's gettin' dark it's roostin' time
Tonight's too good to be real
Oh, but daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill
Oh, daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill

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READ MORE: Loretta Lynn Through the Years: The Country Queen's Life in Photos

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