DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (21)
March 4, 2023
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of favorite Country singles from the Sixties (1964–1973). Series edited by Josh Glenn. BONUS: Check out the DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist on Spotify.
LORETTA LYNN | “DON’T COME HOME A DRINKIN’ (WITH LOVIN’ ON YOUR MIND)” | 1966
I was first drawn to the music of the late Loretta Lynn by, for one thing, her often humorous, sometimes autobiographical songs about the struggles that women face: as, for example, mothers responsible for caretaking and household work (1971’s “One’s on the Way” [written by Shel Silverstein]), divorcees dealing with the heartache of being left (1961’s “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”) or navigating double standards of divorce (1972’s “Rated X”), or wives being able to control their own reproductive choices (1975’s “The Pill” [Lorene Allen, Don McHan, T.D. Bayless, Loretta Lynn]).
She was not the first female artist to record songs addressing women’s struggles. As singer-songwriter Tami Neilson and I explored in our lecture-concert “The F-Word,” the tradition dates back at least to the 1920s with the Carter Family’s recording of “Single Girl, Married Girl.” This frank and often humorous subcurrent in country peaked during the ’60s and ’70s, at a time when Lynn’s songs dominated the charts.
“Doo liked to go out with the boys and have a few beers,” Lynn would write in her 1976 autobiography Coal Miner’s Daughter, and “It was them days that gave me the idea for the song.” Co-written with her sister Peggy Sue Wright, Lynn responds through this song to the unwanted advances of a drunken husband. The song’s protagonist issues an ultimatum, telling him to stay out on the town if he can’t choose her over the bottle. She sings of him of wanting “that kind of love,” a euphemism for sex. Her own kind of love is not explicitly described, but it certainly does not involve a drunken husband’s pressure for late-night sex.
Like many of her songs, Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’” was initially controversial but ultimately became very popular. It was her first (of eleven songs) to top the Hot Country Songs chart. It was also the first #1 song recorded and written by the female singer-songwriter.
Lynn charted her first single in 1960, at a time in which songs by white women represented just 11.4% of the Billboard country-charting songs — a figure that jumped to 17.2% six years later as “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’” was topping the charts. Although songs by white women would sporadically increase in the decades that followed (reaching a historic peak at 33% in 1999), today they occupy the same space as when Lynn was embarking on her career. What keeps me interested in Lynn is her extraordinary place within country’s chart history — and what her career means within the context of an industry that has long created barriers to entry for white women and has actively excluded women of color.
DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | David Cantwell on Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton’s WE FOUND IT | Lucy Sante on Johnny & June Carter Cash’s JACKSON | Mimi Lipson on George Jones’s WALK THROUGH THIS WORLD WITH ME | Steacy Easton on Olivia Newton-John’s LET ME BE THERE | Annie Zaleski on Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E | Carl Wilson on Tom T. Hall’s THAT’S HOW I GOT TO MEMPHIS | Josh Glenn on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s BACK TO TENNESSEE | Elizabeth Nelson on Skeeter Davis’s I DIDN’T CRY TODAY | Carlo Rotella on Buck Owens’ TOGETHER AGAIN | Lynn Peril on Roger Miller’s THE MOON IS HIGH | Erik Davis on Kris Kristofferson’s SUNDAY MORNIN’ COMIN’ DOWN | Francesca Royster on Linda Martell’s BAD CASE OF THE BLUES | Amanda Martinez on Bobbie Gentry’s FANCY | Erin Osmon on John Prine’s PARADISE | Douglas Wolk on The Byrds’ DRUG STORE TRUCK DRIVIN’ MAN | David Warner on Willie Nelson’s WHISKEY RIVER | Will Groff on Tanya Tucker’s DELTA DAWN | Natalie Weiner on Dolly Parton’s IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS (WHEN TIMES WERE BAD) | Charlie Mitchell on Stonewall Jackson’s I WASHED MY HANDS IN MUDDY WATER | Nadine Hubbs on Dolly Parton’s COAT OF MANY COLORS | Jada Watson on Loretta Lynn’s DON’T COME HOME A DRINKIN’ (WITH LOVIN’ ON YOUR MIND) | Adam McGovern on Johnny Cash’s THE MAN IN BLACK | Stephen Thomas Erlewine on Dick Curless’s A TOMBSTONE EVERY MILE | Alan Scherstuhl on Waylon Jennings’s GOOD HEARTED WOMAN | Alex Brook Lynn on Bobby Bare’s THE WINNER. PLUS: Peter Doyle on Jerry Reed’s GUITAR MAN | Brian Berger on Charley Pride’s IS ANYBODY GOING TO SAN ANTONE.
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