Bookworm: 'Honky Tonk Girl' is must-have for Loretta Lynn fans

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It was a wonderful trip – and you never went anywhere.

All you had to do was hear that song, and you saw yourself dancing with your sweetheart. Five opening notes and you were in your first new car, ready to cruise Main Street. Ten seconds, and lyrics flooded your mind along with remembrances of what you were doing when you first heard that song.

Funny how something that enters your ears can send your heart to another place.

For author and songstress Loretta Lynn, those lyrics are a journal of her life and a means for memory. In her new book, Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics, she explains.

The very first lyric Loretta Lynn ever put to paper happened on a day when she went fishing with her husband, Doo. She says she doesn’t remember why she started writing, but she was shocked as the words poured out.

For 50 years, Lynn has put her heart and her thoughts into her lyrics. Whatever she feels, she writes.

What she sees is what she sings – beauty, happiness, sadness and everything in between. Lynn wrote songs about patriotism (when Doo asked her to do so) and Christmas (for a holiday album). She wrote Honky Tonk Girl because she saw heartbreak in a fragile barfly.

She wrote songs in response to what others were doing and in response to her own previous hit songs.

In her early days, when she was just starting out in the business, Lynn’s career was only a dream.

Just after she recorded Honky Tonk Girl, she met Doyle Wilburn, who nurtured her and her music and became a mentor and lyrics collaborator.

Over the years, there were other co-writers for Lynn’s hits, in addition to performers she sang with and by which she’s still awed. Lynn writes about how stage-struck she was by Ernest Tubb, and how Patsy Cline’s death affected her. She explains how her family (especially her sisters) have influenced her shows, and how her younger sibling, Crystal Gayle, got her start. With great glee, Lynn writes about getting her rock-star on, winning Grammy Awards with a most unlikely singing partner …

Reading Honky Tonk Girl is a little like stepping into a place that’s warm, welcoming, and gracious. Maybe that’s because author Loretta Lynn presents all those things in what she’s written here, words and lyrics both.

There’s a lot to like about this book, starting with the fact that you’ll be humming old favorites as you read. Long-time fans will love seeing the personal photos that Lynn shares in this book, while new fans will appreciate reading a story they might not know.

I was also surprised to be reminded (visually and audibly, once I went Web-surfing for music) that there was a time when major hits were minor in length. This book is a treasure-trove for fans of all ages.


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