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Loretta Lynn Under Fire for Age Discrepancy

Loretta Lynn
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Loretta Lynn has always been less than outspoken about her age, but it’s recently been discovered that the singer may not be as young as she claims. If that’s the case, how accurate is the timeline of events as depicted in her autobiography and 1980 Oscar-winning movie, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’? According to recovered Kentucky state birth certificates and marriage licenses for Loretta Webb Lynn, pivotal information woven into the film’s plot — Lynn’s famous life story –  may be completely false.

According to the state of Kentucky, Loretta Webb was born in Johnson County, Ky. in 1932, making the icon 80-years-old, instead of 77 as previously suspected. Even more suspicious is the year on her marriage license to her late husband,  O.V. “Mooney” Lynn, which shows the two tied the knot on Jan. 10, 1948. This proves that the singer was married just shy of her 16th birthday, not at 13 as told in ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter.’

Though Lynn isn’t the first celebrity to fudge their age, many critics question the singer’s motives behind the discrepancy, considering that the events of her teenage years were woven deeply into the movie’s plot. According to Lynn, she was married by the age of 13 and had four children by the age of 18. Her specific age was never disclosed.

“When I was born, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the president for several years. That’s the closest I’m gonna come to telling my age in this book, so don’t go looking for it,” Lynn writes. “I’m trying to make a living singing songs. I don’t need nobody out there saying, ‘She don’t look bad considering she’s such-and-such years old.’”

Trying to obtain an official statement concerning the controversy yielded similar results. Lynn’s spokesperson, Nancy Russell, tells the AP that Lynn refuses to discuss her age entirely. ”If anyone asks how old I am, tell them it’s none of their business!” says the feisty singer.

Lynn’s co-author on ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey, has also confessed he didn’t verify the exact ages before publishing the 1976 autobiography.

“It’s her book, and I never saw a birth certificate, marriage license. It’s what they told me,” he said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “I couldn’t say that she was the one who told me first. Between her manager (David Skepner) who has passed and her husband who has now passed, it was at least three different people telling me that.”

Music journalist and author Robert K. Oermann defends Lynn’s honor as a female pioneer of country music, despite the controversy. ”In the 1960s, you didn’t have the 24-hour news cycle, saturation of personality journalism that you have today. So what appealed to people was the fact that the songs were so extraordinary. Her singing was so great. Everything about her was so refreshing and country,” he writes.

“It wasn’t until much later that people became aware of her backstory, but the music itself is what made her a star. The biography, the life story was just the icing on the cake,” says Oermann.

Known best for her hits ‘Fist City,’ ‘Rated X’ and ‘The Pill,’ Lynn has often been cited as a leader in the women’s liberation movement. The icon has 16 No. 1 hits to her name and has recorded 54 studio albums. To date, Lynn has been inducted into more music Halls of Fame than any other female recording artist. That includes both the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2010, Lynn received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for 50 years in country music.

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