‘Rated ‘X’’: More Pioneering Lyrical Fearlessness From Loretta Lynn

Country trailblazer Lynn’s self-composed song eloquently exposed the hypocrisy often shown to divorced women.

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Loretta Lynn - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Loretta Lynn - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The fifth country No.1 in little more than two years by the “coal miner’s daughter” was a song with a typically audacious lyric. But by 1972, audiences knew to expect the courageous from Loretta Lynn.

She had scored her first chart-topper early in 1967 with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind),” an example of what had already become her trademark, daring lyrical approach. Always at pains, even at the risk of her own career, to put the female perspective on a male-dominated world, Lynn’s sheer honesty in addition to her huge talent made her one of the real pioneering figureheads of the country genre.

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With a total of seven No.1s already to her name, Lynn released “Rated ‘X’” as her new Decca single on November 20, 1972. The self-composed song, produced as ever by Owen Bradley on August 24, eloquently exposed the hypocrisy often shown to divorced women. “Everybody knows that you’ve loved once, they think you’ll love again,” she sang fearlessly. “You can’t have a male friend when you’re a has been of a woman, you’re rated X.” In another knowing couplet, she mused: “The women all look at you like you’re bad and the men all hope you are/But if you go too far you’re gonna wear the scar of a woman rated X.”

Loretta Lynn features on uDiscover Music’s Outlaw & Disorder: Country Rebels playlist.

Once again, Lynn’s boldness brought dividends. The song climbed the US country chart steadily for two months from December 1972, and on February 24, 1973, replaced Merle Haggard’s “I Wonder If They Ever Think Of Me” at the top of the country chart. Rolling Stone called it “a stunning example of Lynn’s fearlessness in speaking plainly but poignantly about the perils of perception.”

“Rated ‘X’” would then be included, as Lynn’s only composition and the only single, on Entertainer Of The Year, already her 21st studio album. Recorded at Bradley’s Barn Studio in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, a 20-minute drive east of Nashville, the LP was named for her CMA Award victory. Trailblazing as ever, Lynn was the first woman ever to win that title.

Buy or stream “Rated ‘X’” on Loretta Lynn’s Entertainer of the Year album.

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