My Kind of Country

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

Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘The Pill’

Continuing her style of writing about topics that were considered controversial and taboo among her mostly-conservative fan base, Loretta Lynn took to singing the virtues of the birth control pill for her 1975 hit, ‘The Pill’.  Although birth control pills were made available to the public in 1960, it was more than a decade later that they became widely used in rural areas – to the people presumably listening to Loretta Lynn hits.  Loretta has even said that countless doctors have praised her song, saying it did more to highlight the pill’s availability than all the pamphlets and other literature that had been sent out.

As was the case with several Loretta Lynn hits, ‘The Pill’ was banned by country stations across the nation, and preachers (especially in the south) took to bashing the song in their Sunday sermons.  All this talk only further piqued the public’s curiosity and the album the song came from, Back to Country, was soon flying off the shelves.  Because of the ban, ‘The Pill’ failed to crack the top spot, peaking at a respectable #5 in 1975.  Sensing this controversy might be the case, MCA held the song for nearly 3 years before including it on an album release.  Loretta actually recorded the song in 1972, but the label had held it over.

The self-penned tune kicks off with a snazzy steel guitar lick, now a signature of Loretta Lynn’s sound.  The steel is the driving instrument in the song, but producer Owen Bradley employs a subtle keyboard and rhythm section to give it a chugging pace.  The narrator in the song has been having babies for years while the man is out ‘having all his fun’.  Comparing herself to a chicken and their home to a hatchery, she’s telling her husband she’s ‘tearing down this brooder house’.  We find her singing of all the sexy clothes she’ll be wearing now that her figure will be back to normal, but the biggest outcry from purists perhaps comes from the song’s final verse, in which the woman is looking forward to a night of loving, knowing that getting pregnant isn’t an issue, she sings:

It’s getting dark, it’s roosting time. tonight’s too good to be real
Aw but Daddy don’t you worry none, ’cause Mama’s got the pill

Even though it failed to top the charts, ‘The Pill’ is to this day one of Loretta Lynn’s signature hits, and stands as her highest charting single on the pop charts, charting at #70 from unsolicited airplay.  The controversial nature of these kinds of songs didn’t hurt Loretta Lynn’s commercial success any either.   She would end the 1970s as the most successful female artist in the genre, and eventually be named the Artist of the Decade by the ACM.  I like to think it was real, honest songs like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, ‘Rated X’, ‘One’s On The Way’, and ‘The Pill’ that solidified her position as the premier vocalist and ambassador of her generation.

Grade: A+

‘The Pill’ is available on several Loretta Lynn compilations, and can be purchased digitally from amazon.

6 responses to “Single Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘The Pill’

  1. Ken Johnson April 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    The statement, “The Pill was banned by country stations across the nation…” is not accurate. The song was banned by a FEW radio stations (primarily the bible belt) but many stations did play the song. If MOST stations had banned it, it would never have achieved top five chart status and likely would not have even made the top ten.

    Despite the interesting social implications I thought it was a pretty dumb song and truly not one of Loretta’s best efforts. I remember playing it on the radio when it was a current hit and though it did receive some requests, it was never as popular as “Coal Miner’s Daughter” or “One’s On The Way” at my station.

    • J.R. Journey April 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm

      I didn’t mean to imply that ‘The Pill’ was banned by more stations than those that played it. Of course, most of the radio stations programming country music at the time played it or it wouldn’t be a hit. I was pointing out that it, like other Loretta Lynn songs, was a source of controversy. And that controversy could very well be the reason that kept it from being a #1 hit.

      And I did find out that the song wasn’t played in some major markets like Seattle and Indianapolis, IN, aside from the Bible Belt area that was obviously turned off by the very notion of sex for anything other than procreation. But thanks for clearing up that ‘The Pill’ was not banned by most stations – just enough to merit a discussion.

  2. Razor X April 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    It’s also interesting to note that Mooney Lynn received a co-writing credit for this song.

  3. Pingback: Loretta Lynn, course work and nerdism. « Theoretical Country…An honours student's conceptualistions on country music and the digital realm.

  4. Doris Pleasants September 10, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    This was the first time I heard this or read about her song and not a big fan of her music but I hope every one got the word from her song before it was taken away.

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