170. Loretta Lynn – ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ (1970)

“Yeah I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter
I remember well, the well where I drew water
The work we done was hard
At night we’d sleep because we were tired
I never thought of ever leaving Butcher Holler”

Taken from the album Coal Miner’s Daughter

Also released on Greatest Hits Vol. 2, The Definitive Collection, Gold and 50th Anniversary Collection

US #83

Though she was born in Brisbane, my mother and her family grew up in Mount Isa, a small town in central Queensland. My grandfather, who I’ve mentioned before died days before Johnny Cash, was a miner. It wasn’t coal that he mined, but furthering the connections I draw between my family and country music, this makes my mother a miner’s daughter, just like Loretta Lynn. And while their poverty was never as extreme as described in the song, there are certainly further similarities that can be drawn between the two situations, making a great song like this even closer to my heart.

Like Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat Of Many Colours’, which would come out in 1971, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ is a sad but hopeful song sung by a great American voice. The conditions Loretta describes here are equally horrible and heartwarming – as she says herself, “we were poor but we had love, that’s the one thing Daddy made sure of”. Although I count her among my favourite singers, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ is by far Loretta’s greatest song, a defining moment not just in her career but in all of the country genre.

“Not much left but the floor
Nothing lives here anymore
But the memories of a coal miner’s daughter”

Loretta was a no-nonsense woman but she was never afraid to be emotional, and that last few lines of this song are very revealing. She sings not just about herself, but about millions of people around the world who related to her music. Whether the story is set in Butcher Holler, Kentucky or in Mount Isa, Queensland – the message is the same. Unlike money, love is always around, and survives when material objects, and the people that owned those objects, fade away.

Live at the Grand Ole Opry:

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