It's been 50 years since Loretta Lynn scored a hit with her very first recording, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Reminded of the years gone by, the country superstar seems impressed by her own longevity — as she should be.
"Ain't that something?" Lynn says by phone from her home outside Nashville. "I couldn't believe it when they told me how long it's been."
Looking back on her hardscrabble beginnings, which found her driving with her husband, Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn, from one radio station to another to promote her record, Lynn says, "That's probably when I had my best time, going from station to station. Now it's way different. That kind of thing wouldn't happen today."
Lynn's remarkable career has included numerous No. 1 hits, including "Coal Miner's Daughter" (which was also the name of her 1980 Academy Award-winning biopic), "Fist City," "One's on the Way," "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," and "She's Got You." Other major hits include "You're Lookin' at Country" and "The Pill."
Many of those songs, as well as others in her catalog, are gritty, tough-talking anthems that dealt with real-life situations in a frank manner, causing Lynn to be praised — or vilified, depending on your point of view — as a trailblazing feminist.
—"'One's on the Way' and 'The Pill,' are the ones that gave me the most trouble," she says. "You wouldn't think so, 'cause everyone out there was having babies one after the other. But then (birth control pills) came out and I wrote the song. And then everybody was taking the pill, so why should they raise the devil about it?"
Lynn raised some eyebrows in Nashville again in 2004 when she let rock guitarist Jack White produce her most recent album, "Van Lear Rose." But the album won two Grammy Awards, including best country album, and became the biggest seller of her career.
The lesson, she says, is that artists need to return to real country music.
"My stuff is country," she says. "Even when I'm recording with Jack White."
In addition to her current tour, which brings her to Rickman Auditorium in Arnold on Saturday, Lynn's schedule this year will find her playing some dates on the Lilith Fair tour — which is wholly appropriate for someone whose songs have made her an icon of female empowerment.
Lynn is also working on a variety of recording projects, including a duets album with various female pop and country singers, a religious album and a Christmas album.
One thing that is not on her schedule, though, is retirement.
"I believe in work," she says. "I always have. I didn't like washing dishes when I was coming up, and I'd get whipped, so I would do it. But now, I don't mind work."
8 p.m. Saturday • Rickman Auditorium, Arnold • $35-$52 • 636-296-3244 • Ticketmaster