You can remove the hillbilly from the mountains fairly easily, but I’ve found it’s a lot more difficult to remove the mountains from the hillbilly.

This past week, this world lost one of those people who make me thankful that statement is true. Loretta Lynn, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” from Butcher Holler in Van Lear, Johnson County, emerged from the mountains little more than a girl with a beautiful voice and rose to prominence as one of the most popular and awarded women to ever enter the country music business.

On Oct. 4, at 90 years old, Loretta left this world and passed on to the next.

Her passing has been noted and mourned in corners far further away than just Eastern Kentucky or her adopted home of Hurricane Mills, Tennessee and her impact in music and the culture as a whole have been a lot greater than I think I ever realized.

When you grow up in Eastern Kentucky, you know who Loretta Lynn is and as soon as you’re capable of understanding it — sometimes before — you’re shown “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to ensure that you really “get” who Loretta is.

While I’d admit that I’ve never given her music the attention it deserves, like most of the country artists of her her era, I’m fairly well-versed thanks to it being part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

As often is the case, the day after Loretta’s passing, my son and I were listening to his favorite station on Sirius — Willie’s Roadhouse — when Loretta’s duet with Conway Twitty “Lead Me On” came on. I think it’s an understatement to say that within those 2 minutes, 30 seconds or so, I “got it.” Loretta’s voice wasn’t just good. It was great. It was one of those voices that will only come along every generation or so.

The word “legend” is thrown around way too much, but when you fully get an idea of how much impact Loretta had, the longevity of her career and the number and quality of artists she influenced, you understand that this word can not only fairly be applied to Loretta, but also that may be an understatement.

Though it’s often mentioned, I’m not sure it’s appreciated enough about Loretta Lynn is that, in many ways, she was a journalist. While the songs she wrote may not have been exactly “her” truth in every instance, like all the great songwriters of history, the songs she wrote were truths.

She inhabited the voice of the woman finding out about her “man’s” death at war in “Dear Uncle Sam.” She convincingly told the story of the intricacies of relationships in songs like “Fist City” And “You ain’t Woman Enough.”  She spoke of a strong faith in songs like “Who Says God is Dead?” and “I Pray My Way out of Trouble.”

Those songs may have seemed universal in many ways, but they were, at the same time, deeply rooted in her Appalachian home and reflected the voice of a people often overlooked.

In recent years, that voice has begun being heard more and more, with the ascendancy of artists like Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Sierra Ferrell and numerous others. These artists and those who come after will be standing on the shoulders of Loretta Lynn. Her trailblazing set forth the path these artists and many others. They are beneficiaries of the work she did.

In the midst of all this, however, the stories that are emerging about Loretta Lynn paint a picture of a woman who may have left Eastern Kentucky, but never forgot what she learned here about respect and care for others, about hospitality and about humility.

In other words, Loretta Lynn lived her life in a way that, no matter what success she experienced, what heights of accomplishment she reached, Butcher Holler never left her heart, and the world is a better place for that.

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