I’ve always known that Loretta Lynn is immensely talented, but who knew she was so gifted at keeping a secret? For 26 years, the country icon led the world to believe that she was married at 13, a tall tale told in her 1976 autobiography Coal Miner’s Daughter — and repeated in the 1980 film, for which Sissy Spacek won a Best Actress Oscar — and one that she likely would have lived out her days retelling had it not been for the Associate Press reporter who recently uncovered her actual birthdate: April 14, 1932.
I’m not sure what led the AP to dig into Lynn’s vital statistics, but evidence from Lynn’s birth certificate, her marriage license and a 1940 census revealed her birth year to be 1932, not 1935, as had previously been believed. That means she was married not at 13, but at the still-not-quite-ripe age of 15. More importantly, though, it means that Lynn is now 80 years old, and she has been for more than a month now.
On the plus side, Zooey Deschanel, 32, who will play Lynn in the upcoming Broadway musical version of Coal Miner’s Daughter and is two years older than Spacek was at the time of the film’s release, should have an easier time passing for 15 (should the story be reworked to make it chronologically correct). And it’s not like Gabrielle Carteris, Meredith Monroe and Stacey Dash haven’t already tested the believability of thirtysomething actresses playing high schoolers on Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s Creek and Clueless, respectively.
Since Lynn cheated herself out of receiving special birthday tributes and me out of giving one to her, I offer belated 80th-birthday props. May the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so remiss in honoring towering female talent, get to Lynn next year. If I ever make it to 80, I hope I look as great as she does.
The Best of Loretta Lynn
“Success” Did Sinead O’Connor do Loretta justice on Am I Not Your Girl?, her 1992 covers album?
“Your Squaw Is On the Warpath” Mad love!
“One’s on the Way” The first Loretta Lynn song I ever heard. What’s that about “the pill” (which, incidentally, would be the title of another Lynn hit in 1975, four years after this one)? Could anyone get away with this sort of thing today? Who’d even try?
“Out of My Head and Back in My Bed” No one does unwieldy, classic country song titles quite like Lynn.
“After the Fire Is Gone” (with Conway Twitty) Still burning 31 years later.
“Feelins” (with Conway Twitty) No not the Morris Albert pop standard and so much better for it.
“Portland, Oregon” (with Jack White) So this means she was actually in her 70s when she rocked out on her last album, 2004’s White-produced Van Lear Rose.
“I Lie” She does indeed!