Loretta Lynn's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Loretta Lynn
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Loretta Lynn poses for a portrait holding a guitar that has her name spelled down the fretboard in circa 1961 in Nashville, Tenn. 

When you hear the music of Loretta Lynn, you undoubtedly are listening to one of the most traditional artists in the history of Country Music. Nobody will argue that fact. But, at the time of the release of her greatest work in the 1960s and 1970s, there was nothing old-fashioned concerning her approach to a lyric. Loretta Lynn songs sounded different than those of artists like Kitty Wells who came before her. She wasn't scared to tackle subjects such as birth control, motherhood and cheating husbands in a way that had never been done before.

The lyrical content in her material helped to make her an iconic performer in the 1970s, even getting her on the cover of Newsweek Magazine – and becoming the subject of both a best-selling autobiography and an Oscar-winning movie that stands as one of the greatest music-related films of all time.

Here are ten Loretta Lynn song performances that helped to define -- and shape -- that legend that we love and hold so dear to our hearts!

See more: Colt Ford | Don Williams | Dustin Lynch | John Prine | Kris Kristofferson | Maren Morris | Montgomery Gentry | Tanya Tucker 

10. Loretta Lynn - "Blue Kentucky Girl"

While the majority of classic Loretta Lynn songs flowed from her own pen, this aching song of loneliness - from her 1964 album Songs From My Heart -- features the songwriting credit of Johnny Mullins. Fifteen years later, Emmylou Harris lovingly tipped her hat to Lynn with a faithful hit cover of this timeless evergreen.

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9. Loretta Lynn - "When The Tingle Becomes A Chill"

A No. 1 hit from 1975, Lynn evoked considerable emotion on this number about a woman who has lost the spark she once felt toward her lover. The singer gave a performance for the ages on this one, which also served as the title track from one of her most successful albums of the mid-'70s.

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8. Loretta Lynn - "Love Is the Foundation"

There aren’t that many straight-ahead declarations of love in the Loretta Lynn song catalog, but the singer aimed directly for the heart on this 1973 song, from the pen of William Cody Hall. In 1994, Lynn re-visited the tune, covering it herself on her album Making More Memories.

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7. Loretta Lynn - "You’re Lookin’ at Country"

The singer was inspired to write this 1971 top 10 hit while traveling around the United States on tour. Inspired by the natural beauty of the country, this track became a Loretta Lynn crowd favorite that was featured -- among many of her hits -- in the 1980 biopic Coal Miner's Daughter.

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6. Loretta Lynn feat. Jack White - "Portland, Oregon"

Lynn's 2004 LP Van Lear Rose was a testament to the never-ending creative spirit of the singer. Now in her early 70s, the singer teamed up with her producer, Jack White, to record a duet filled with enough longing and lust to make Conway Twitty -- her trademark collaborative partner -- smile down from the heavens in approval.

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5. Loretta Lynn - "One’s On The Way"

If you have copies of this Decca single with the title printed as “Here In Topeka,” chances are pretty good that you have a collector's item. The label mistakenly pressed the first edition of this Loretta Lynn song before realizing their error. Lyrically, the song -- about a woman comparing her ordinary lifestyle to the jet-setters of the day, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, and Jackie Kennedy -- touched a nerve with women around the country who were going through the same experience. Though the song seemed straight out of Lynn’s life, it was actually written by someone else: legendary author Shel Silverstein.

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4. Loretta Lynn - "Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)"

The first of Loretta Lynn’s songs to top the Billboard country charts came with this feisty offering about a woman who was tired of her husband wanting to get romantic when he was intoxicated. It was the first of the singer’s songs to show the take-no-prisoners mentality that she became so famous for with her material. Ironically, the song peaked at the top during Valentines’ Week of 1967.

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3. Loretta Lynn - "You Ain’t Woman Enough"

This 1966 song of warning to another woman who had designs on the singer’s man -- inspired by a real-life incident -- has become one of the most covered of Lynn's songs over the years. The Grateful Dead performed this song in concert during the early 1970s, and Martina McBride paid homage to Lynn with a cover of the song on her 2005 album Timeless. But, perhaps the most interesting performance of this song goes to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who recorded it as an extra for the 2005 film Be Cool.

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2. Loretta Lynn - "The Pill"

For as much as Loretta Lynn is known as one of Country Music’s most traditional-minded legends, this 1975 single was far from the norm: a song about birth control. The singer was very frank and concise in her attempt to go where no woman in the format had gone before. Radio wasn’t too keen on the unorthodox nature of the song, as several stations banned the song from their playlist. Needless to say, it didn’t work, as the song became one of her best-remembered recordings.

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1. Loretta Lynn - "Coal Miners’ Daughter"

On October 1, 1969, Loretta Lynn walked into the recording studio to begin work on a song that was far different than the type of material she had become known for in the latter part of the decade. The song had none of the sassy spirit and fire that had been a part of such classics as “Fist City.” The song was her story -- about growing up poor in the mountains of Kentucky. This classic composition became not only her signature song, but also the name of her best-selling 1976 book, and the 1980 film that earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar for playing Lynn.

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