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in a song by Loretta Lynn

says Norman Warwick

Although I had previously known her name and a couple of her tracks it took the film Coal Miner´s Daughter to make me more fully aware of Loretta Lynn´s song writing abilities and her profound influence on country music.

Tina Benitez Ives recently addressed that influence in American Songwriter.

The journalist, a writer I really enjoy reading, confirmed in the article that ´Loretta Lynn (left)  said it all in one line: If you’re lookin’ at me, you’re lookin’ at country.

 “You’re Lookin’ at Country” was an ode to the pastoral imagery she passed on the open road while touring and her affirmation of being all-country. Released a year after “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the song climbed to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The 1971 album You’re Lookin’ at Country peaked at No. 7´.

Lynn was first inspired to write the song after roaming her Hurricane Mills property in Tennessee with her husband Oliver Lynn (Doo). While showing her the new livestock he bought while she was on the road, Lynn was captivated by the natural landscape surrounding them and told Doo, “You’re lookin’ at country, real country.”

Within the song, Lynn sings about running barefooted through the old cornfields and her love of the land under her feet. To make the song move on the charts, she wrote it around a love interest.

And this little girl would walk a country mile
To find her a good old slow-talkin’ country boy
I said a country boy
I’m about as old-fashioned as I can be
So I hope you’re likin’ what you see
If you’re lookin’ at me
You’re lookin’ at country

You don’t see no city when you look at me
‘Cause country’s all I am
I love runnin’ barefooted through the old cornfields
And I love that country ham
Well, you say I’m made just to fit your plans
But there’s a barnyard shovel fit your hands
If your eyes are on me
You’re lookin’ at country, oh Bobby

Well, I like my lovin’ done country-style
And this little girl would walk a country mile
To find her a good old slow-talkin’ country boy
I said a country boy
I’m about as old-fashioned as I can be
So I hope you’re likin’ what you see
If you’re lookin’ at me
You’re lookin’ at country

“I had to write ‘You’re Lookin’ At Country’ as a love song or it wouldn’t sell,” said Lynn in the liner notes for the 1994 box set Honky Tonk Girl: The Loretta Lynn Collection. “But it wasn’t a love song. I got the idea from looking at my land. I wanted to write what I saw.”

In 1978, Lynn performed her country paean on an episode of The Muppets Show. Actress Sissy Spacek (left) later performed “You’re Lookin’ at Country” in two scenes of the 1980 film on Lynn’s life, Coal Miner’s Daughter, along with singing the song for the soundtrack.

Carrie Underwood covered Lynn’s classic in the 2010 tribute album, Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute To Loretta Lynn, and in 2014, Lynn joined Kacey Musgraves on stage to perform the song during the CMA Awards.

Loretta Lynn left her mark as the first woman in country to write her own songs. Over the decades, she often collaborated with longtime duet partners and friends, the late Conway Twitty and Willie Nelson, along with Ernest Tubb (“Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be,” 1964), Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette (“Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” 1993) Frank Sinatra (“All Or Nothing At All,” 1977) and later unions with Elvis Costello (see below) and Jack White (“Portland, Oregon,” 2004)—off Lynn’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose, which White also produced.

In between releasing 46 albums of her own material, Lynn also wrote songs for other artists—recording several for herself later on—including tracks for sisters Peggy Sue and Crystal Gayle to The Osborne Brothers, and Warner Mack among others.

Here are five songs that Loretta Lynn wrote for other artists.

“I Pray My Way out of Trouble,” The Osborne Brothers Written by Loretta Lynn and Teddy Wilburn

Loretta Lynn and Teddy Wilburn, of the 1960s country sibling duo The Wilburn Brothers, wrote this story of the power of prayer for The Osborne Brothers. Released on the group’s 1969 album Favorite Hymns, Lynn later recorded the song herself on her 20th album, God Bless America Again, in 1972.

Peggy Sue and Crystal Gayle. (loretta´s sisters)

“I’m Dynamite,” Peggy Sue (1969)

Written by Loretta Lynn

The middle sister of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle, Peggy Sue recorded the Lynn-penned “I”m Dynamite” for her 1969 debut, Dynamite, which hit the Top 30 on the country chart. A year later, Lynn put her own spin on the song for her 15th album Wings Upon Your Horns.

Peggy Sue and Lynn collaborated regularly in the early days, when both were signed to Decca with Lynn also writing several other songs for her younger sister, including their co-written “Love Whatcha Got at Home,” first recorded by Peggy Sue then by Lynn on her 18th album, You’re Lookin’ at Country, in 1971. Lynn also penned “No Woman Can Hold Him Too Long” and “Mrs. Leroy Brown” for Peggy, the latter track released on Lynn’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose.

By 1986, Peggy Sue switched to singing as a backup singer and designing stage wear for her younger sister Crystal Gayle—who she continues to perform with to date. All three sisters would often perform with Lynn at her Hurricane Mills, Tennessee ranch, and Peggy Sue also helped Lynn write some of her earlier songs, including Lynn’s first No. 1 country hit “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” released in 1967.

“Let’s Get Back Down to Earth,” Warner Mack (1969)
Written by Loretta Lynn

Another track Lynn would record herself on her 15th album, Wings Upon Your Horns, “Let’s Get Back Down to Earth” was written by Loretta Lynn but first recorded and released by Warner Mack in 1969. The country singer released a number of hits throughout his career, including “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)” in 1957 and “The Bridge Washed Out” in 1965, along with his final album, Better Than Ever at the age of 85. Mack died on March 1, 2022, in Nashville, at the age of 86

“I’ve Cried (The Blue Right Out of My Eyes),”

Crystal Gayle (1970) Written by Loretta Lynn

When younger sister Crystal Gayle eventually signed on to Decca Records, joining Lynn and Peggy Sue, Lynn wrote several songs for her, including her first single “I’ve Cried (The Blue Right Out of My Eyes),” which peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Lynn went on to write a number of other songs recorded by Gayle, including “Sparklin’ Look of Love,” which was released as the B-side to “I’ve Cried (The Blue Right Out of My Eyes),” and “Mama It’s Different This Time.”

The two sisters would often perform together, and when Gayle was just 16, she even filled in for Lynn at the Grand Ole Opry. “Loretta was sick,” said Gayle in a 2016 interview. “I know Mooney [Oliver Lynn], her husband, talked somebody into letting me go on stage that night.”

Gayle added, ”She got me my first recording contract, and she told me the best advice: ‘Don’t sing anything that I would because we’re only going to be compared,’” said Gayle. “She was right.”

“I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came,”

Elvis Costello (2009) Written by Loretta Lynn and Costello

For his 2009 album Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, recorded in Nashville by T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello connected with Lynn to co-write the roots and bluegrass—leaning “I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came.” Filled with more bluegrass, Americana, and country-driven tracks, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200 for Costello. 

In 2016, the pair teamed up again for a duet on “Everything It Takes,” written by Lynn and Todd Snider and released on her 43rd album Full Circle. Lynn called the song a “woman song—something more for a woman.” She added, “I wrote ‘Everything It Takes’ real fast. I probably wrote it in 30 minutes. Sometimes I can write a song real fast, and sometimes it’ll take me two, or three days. And I get so aggravated that I’ll probably lay it down and go back to it later. But that song came easy. I’ll come up with the title first and, when I come up with the title, I always know I got a good title.”

Of her first meeting with Costello six years earlier, while writing “I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came,” Lynn told Tina Benitez Ives that

“We sat down in the studio to write a song. I had a piece of paper and a pencil, and he had a computer. So we looked at one another like, ‘What’s going to come out of this?’ He was laughing about it, but I didn’t think it was funny because that’s the way I write all my songs. When I write a song, I don’t want to be on a computer.”

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