Features

The Resounding Impact of Loretta Lynn's 'Fist City'

In the turbulent year of 1968, Loretta Lynn's homespun take on marriage fidelity, "Fist City," was a one-woman protest that still sounds relevant over 50 years later. The song, first recorded with Decca Records, became Lynn's second No. 1 hit, topping the country charts on April 20. Today, it's one of many classic songs that capture the headstrong ways its singer learned while growing up dirt-poor in rural Kentucky before she moved to Nashville. 

Dating back at least to Kitty Wells' 1952 hit "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,"  some of the best country songs by women questioned social norms. Just as Wells called out Hank Thompson's pity for cheating husbands in the greatest answer song of them all, artists ranging from Jeannie C. Riley to Maddie and Tae became agitators in the best possible way when pointing their ire at double standards. Although it's part of a larger trend, Lynn's legendary status and songwriter skill place her song at the top of the heap of righteously angry country anthems. She even re-recorded the song for her 2016 album, Full Circle. I am positive it will always be a classic.

A Timeless Song

While Wells' hit seems like a timestamp now, pointing fans back to not just her career but to a time when various Hanks (Thompson, Williams, Snow, Locklin, etc.) set the course for commercial country music, Lynn's "Fist City" sounds timeless.

Part of that has to do with staying power. As the 1970s progressed, Lynn became a household name. Since then, she's become a true living legend. With a status only surpassed by fellow dirt-poor country girl turned superstar Dolly Parton and, of course, the ageless Willie Nelson, most everything Lynn wrote or sung transcends nostalgia, serving as a perennial high watermark for anyone wanting to write or perform country music.

Read More: The 15 Best Loretta Lynn Songs, Ranked

Beyond that, "Fist City" stands out in a beloved back catalog for speaking to all women, not just those in the same spot as the once impoverished teenage bride behind its lyrics. A not-so-veiled threat targeting a woman with eyes for Loretta's husband, Doolittle Lynn, the song reveals its singer's no-nonsense attitude. Per Lynn, a mix of stubbornness and common sense inspired the song.

"Here I was, 14-years-old and learning the facts of life the hard way," she wrote in her autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter. "Sure, I've heard people say men are bound to run around a little bit. It's their nature. Well, shoot, I don't believe in double standards, where men can get away with things that women can't. In God's eyes, there's no double standard. That's one of the things I've been trying to say in my songs."

An Equality Anthem

Even if a little jealousy came into play, Lynn had equality on her mind when writing "Fist City's" fiery lyrics. In a year marked by student protests and women's liberation, Lynn sparked her own demonstration without choosing sides. A lot can be said about when and why country stars should get political, but in the case of "Fist City," Lynn looked to her homespun wisdom instead of the headlines to vent. Were this song tied to what was happening in the world then, it might seem more like a '60s throwback, much like those great yet obviously dated songs Creedence Clearwater Revival and others sang about the Vietnam War.

Even more, change was afoot in the years between "Fist City" and Lynn's rise to even wider fame. Rock got soft, country music went cosmopolitan, mothers in Lynn's age range went to work and other developments made bitingly honest takes on the common woman's life even more appealing. This song pointed not to a specific time, but to a self-sufficient way of life and a headstrong mindset that still speaks to women in all walks of life.

Lyrics

Oh, you've been makin' your brags around town

That you've been a lovin' my man

But the man I love, when he picks up trash

He puts it in a garbage can

That's what a you look like to me

What I see's a pity

You better close your face and stay outta my way

If you don't wanna go to fist city

If you don't wanna go to fist city

You better detour around my town

'Cause I'll grab you by the hair a the head

And I'll lift you off the groundI'm not a sayin' my baby's a saint 'cause he ain't

N' that he won't cat around with a kitty

I'm here to tell you gal to lay off my man

If you don't wanna go to fist city

Come on and tell me what you told my friends

If you think you're brave enough

And I'll show you what a real woman is

Since you think you're hot stuff

You'll bite off more than you can chew

If you get to cute or witty

You better move your feet

If you don't wanna eat

A meal that's called fist city

If you don't wanna go to fist city

You better detour around my town

'Cause I'll grab you by the hair a the head

And I'll lift you off the groundI'm not a sayin' my baby's a saint 'cause he ain't

N' that he won't cat around with a kitty

I'm here to tell you gal to lay off my man

If ya don't wanna go to fist city

I'm here to tell you gal to lay off my man

If you don't wanna go to fist city

Now Watch: Whitney Rose Performs 'You Don't Own Me'

oembed rumble video here

recommended for you

The Resounding Impact of Loretta Lynn's 'Fist City'