My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Greatest Hits’

Loretta Lynn’s success in the 1970s was so great that it somewhat overshadowed the equally worthwhile music that she made in the 1960s. Her first Greatest Hits collection, released by Decca in 1968, provides an excellent sampler of her early work. Though the hits are not presented in sequential order, the album shows her progression from long-suffering wife to outspoken feminist.

The earliest track on the album is 1962’s “Success”, which was her first Top Ten hit. Written by Johnny Mullins, the song tells the story of a couple for whom fame and fortune come at the expense of their relationship.  Rock singer Sinead O’Connor covered the song thirty years later.  Lynn’s next chart hit from 1963 features her in a rare role as “The Other Woman”. Usually Loretta is the wronged wife who confronts the woman who is trying to steal here husband, but in this instance, she’s on the opposite side of the fence, trying to justify her behavior:

But you gave him the right to seek that other woman
And you know who was first to cheat on who
I just accepted love from him you never wanted
The other woman didn’t steal from you

Peaking at #13, “The Other Woman” is the only song in this collection that didn’t reach the Top 10.

1965’s “The Home You’re Tearin’ Down” is an interesting example of Loretta’s work before she truly found her niche.  Like “The Other Woman”, it was written by Betty Sue Perry, who penned several of Loretta’s early hits.  She is clearly playing the victim here, as she attempts to send her husband’s mistress on a guilt trip by extending an invitation for her to meet the wife and children:

Once some happy faces would have met you at the door,
But since their daddy’s gone so much, they don’t smile anymore.
There’s shattered parts of broken hearts, just scattered all around,
Come over anytime and see the home you’re tearin’ down.

I’ll dry all my tears and have the coffee hot,
‘Cause I can’t sleep a wink no more, time’s all I’ve got
You’ll see the price I’m paying for happiness you’ve found,
Come over anytime and see the home you’re tearin’ down.

Just one year later, Lynn revisited the theme of a conversation between a wife and the other woman, but this time in a self-penned composition that shows her feistier side:

You’ve come to tell me somethin’
You say I ought to know
That he don’t love me anymore
And I’ll have to let him go
You say you’re gonna take him,
Oh, but I don’t think you can,
‘Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man

“You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man” was Loretta’s biggest hit up to that time, reaching #2 on the Billboard country singles chart. It marks the beginning of the more assertive Loretta that we would see many times in the years to come. It is probably her best remembered hit after “Coal Miner’s Daughter”.

In a similar vein, Lynn’s next single was “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”, her first #1 hit which she wrote with her sister Peggy Sue Wells. In this tune, Loretta is an angry wife who confronts her drunken husband as he returns from a night on the town. It’s a theme she’d visited earlier, with 1963’s “Wine, Women and Song”, another honky-tonk number written by Betty Sue Perry, and would visit again in 1968 with “Your Squaw Is On The Warpath”, which is not included in this collection.

My favorite song in this collection is 1965’s “Blue Kentucky Girl”, which was written by Johnny Mullins and later covered by Emmylou Harris. It features Lynn as a young woman who is faithfully awaiting the return of her boyfriend and possible fiance who has gone out into the world to seek his fortune. It stands in stark contrast to “If You’re Not Gone Too Long”, in which Loretta promises her love that “I’ll be true to you honey, while you’re gone — if you’re not gone too long.”

Another noteworthy song from this collection is a #4 hit from 1966, “Dear Uncle Sam.” It was largely overshadowed by the bigger hits that followed it, but was recently rediscovered in the wake of the U.S’s wars on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s been somewhat misrepresented as an anti-war protest song by those who opposed these military involvements, but its lyrics are totally apolitical. Its final verse is one of the most dramatic and effective performances of Loretta’s career. She speaks the lyrics as a bugle plays “Taps”:

Dear Uncle Sam,
I just got your telegram
And I can’t believe that this is me,
Shaking like I am
For it said, I’m sorry to inform you …

There are more comprehensive compilations of Loretta’s work available, but for those who are specifically interested in her 1960s material, this one is the best. It is currently out of print, but inexpensive new and used copies can be purchased from third-party sellers on Amazon.

Grade:  A

One response to “Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Greatest Hits’

  1. Paul W Dennis April 7, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Actually I’d give this album an A+. This album contains all of my favorites except “Your Squaw Is On The Warpath” and “One’s On The Way”

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