On 19 December 1970, already ten years into her chart career, the self-taught singer, songwriter and guitarist Loretta Lynn took a number about her own life to No. 1, when ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ hit the country summit.
The great country music figurehead wrote the song about her own upbringing as the second of seven children, “in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler,” the coal mining community where she was born on 14 April 1932 in Johnson County, Kentucky. It was a truly vivid depiction of her tough, working class beginnings in life, produced by the prolific Owen Bradley and released as a Decca single in October 1970 as the follow-up to Loretta’s top ten country hit ‘You Wanna Give Me A Lift.’
Fans responded immediately to this new, autobiographical style, and ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ was in the chart before the end of the month. In just its eighth week on the countdown, the song replaced Sonny James’ ‘Endlessly’ at the top to become the fourth in Lynn’s proud total of 16 country No. 1s. Although it didn’t cross over to the pop market, it did represent a significant breakthrough, becoming her first-ever Billboard Hot 100 entry with a No. 83 peak.
In 1976, the song lent its title to Lynn’s autobiography, and another four years on it inspired the big screen biopic about Lynn’s life. Also called Coal Miner’s Daughter and directed by Michael Apted, it won Sissy Spacek an Oscar for her portrayal of the great country queen, as well as a Golden Globe and other accolades; Spacek also sang her own vocals for the soundtrack. Lynn never underestimated the importance of the ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ single in her career. As she said: “It told everybody that I could write about something else besides marriage problems.”
‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ is on Loretta Lynn’s Gold compilation, which can be bought here.
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