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 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.
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 songwriting skill places her song at the top of the heap of righteously angry country anthems.
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, or course, the ageless Willie Nelson, most everything Lynn wrote or sung transcends nostalgia, serving as a perennial high water mark 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 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 headstrong mindset that still speaks to women in all walks of life.