Last night I checked another of the goals off the list: seeing Loretta Lynn in concert (I've seen Patti Smith too). Loretta is currently on tour and celebrating her 54th year of performing. She stopped in DC to play a little show at the Lincoln Theater. It was an interesting and odd concert but always enjoyable. Loretta sounds exactly like she always has; strong voice, sassy, and ready to knock you down if you even think about stealing her man. Time has been kind to her voice which is not always true of lifelong performers.
I've always liked Loretta Lynn. I don't know if it was my grandfather's influence (he was a rabid country music fan later in life) or the influence of growing up in the south that brought me to her. Classic country and honky tonk songs are incredibly appealing; there's great storytelling, clear voices, and attitude that I think more modern (and I include most country from the 80s in this category) country music lacks. It's not to stay that there aren't talented country artists today; I just don't listen to them (except the Dixie Chicks). Loretta Lynn's music is a lot of things: funny, feminist (more on this in a few minutes), heartfelt, and above all identifiable. She sang about her life and her love and the things she saw around her. You always knew that Loretta wouldn't take crap from anyone and that she'd fight for what was hers even if it might not always be worth keeping. That's the kind of woman she is.
In 2004, Loretta teamed up with another favorite of mine, Jack White, for Van Lear Rose. She wrote or co-wrote every song on the album. After its release, I spent the better part of a year listening to Van Lear Rose, The White Stripes Elephant, and Green Day's American Idiot in heavy rotation. Sometimes I still listen to these three albums in a row; makes me feel good about life. Van Lear Rose is amazing; beautiful and rock and roll and quintessential Loretta Lynn. Hipster cool kids "discovered" Loretta and were entranced by her stories and her voice. The hipsters occasionally get things right.
I missed her on the last few tours she's done and literally (ask Pumpkin) freaked out when I found out that she was going to be playing at the Lincoln Theater yesterday. I bought two tickets almost immediately after they went on sale. I asked my mom to go with me; who better to see Loretta Lynn with than your mama?
Some highlights from the evening:
- The opening act was The Von Trapps, the great-grandchildren of the Captain and Maria. They are exactly what you would expect the Von Trapp great-grandchildren to be. They did a lovely rendition of "Dream a Little Dream" and a random version of the national anthem of Rwanda, "Rwanda Nziza". Apparently, they were invited to Rwanda and sang this for President Kagame. He enjoyed their rendition so much that he gave August Von Trapp a cow.
- Of course, The Von Trapps ended with "Edelweiss" because Von Trapps.
- Three of Loretta's children, Ernie, Peggy, and Patsy, are part of her band. Ernie plays guitar and all three sing a few songs before their mother comes on. Peggy and Patsy are her youngest, the twins, and Patsy is named for Patsy Cline. All three are talented but I can't help but think that if their mother wasn't Loretta Lynn, they may not have had much of a country career.
- Loretta dresses like the lady she is. This time, a pink number, sparkly and lovely. I can't help but think that it must weigh a ton.
- My uncle mentioned that she tends to forget the lyrics to songs. I would too if I had released 114 records (#115 is due out this year) with countless hits and I was 83 years old. The only time it was evident was when she sang "Portland Oregon" from Van Lear Rose. She and a member of her band were singing it together and they both forgot the second verse. She did enough of it to make everyone happy and made a little joke about not knowing where Jack was, pausing like he was going to appear to sing with her.
- She sang three songs that were (and still are to some extent) considered among her most controversial, "Dear Uncle Sam", "The Pill", and "One's On the Way." Loretta had around fourteen songs banned from country radio over the years and they were all one's that dealt with the topics of the day and in several cases, bordered on or were, feminist in theme. "Dear Uncle Sam" is about a woman who opposes the draft during the Vietnam War; "The Pill" is about birth control, and "One's On the Way" is about the struggles of having children for the average or poor woman (she juxtaposes images of Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy with a woman in Topeka who has one on the way). Other songs like "Wings Upon Your Horns" (teen girl loses her virginity) and "Rated X" (doubled standard faced by divorced woman), were among others that were banned. I was disappointed that she didn't play "Rated X".
- "You Ain't Woman Enough" was great - this was the first number one song penned by a female country artist (in 1966). She also sang another favorite, "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)" was also great to hear.
- Poor Loretta had the worst time on stage. Apparently, the ragweed in the area hit her hard last night. She spent most of the concert wiping her eyes and nose. We all felt really bad for her.
- My mom's first Uber experience - I didn't want to drive to U Street and my mom doesn't always do well on Metro so we took Uber. Both of our drivers were excellent and there was no wait. We had a nice conversation with the second driver; she was lovely and drives for Uber in her spare time (she's a realtor).
Van Lear Rose