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Loretta Lynn, Just Named Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient, at Peabody on Sept. 13

| September 5, 2013

Loretta Lynn is 81 and still at it. (Scott Schram)

Loretta Lynn is 81 and still at it. (Scott Schram)

The London Symphony Orchestra isn’t coming to town anymore. But there’s always Loretta Lynn, the country star and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She’ll be at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach on Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

On Aug. 8 Lynn was named one 16 people who will be receiving the medal of freedom later this year, the nation’s highest civilian honor that President Kennedy established 50 years ago. She is just the second country musician, along with Ernie Ford, to get the honor, though White House trips are old news to her. She made her first to sing for Richard Nixon, whom she called “Richard” publicly (but alas not “Dick”).

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours,” President Obama said last month at the White House ceremony. “This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”

Lynn was in glittering company. It included Ernie Banks, the baseball player, Ben Bradlee, who was the executive editor of the Washington Post, overseeing the Watergate scandal coverage in the 1970s, Bill Clinton, Mario Molina (the environmental scientist), Arturo Sandoval, the jazz trumpeter, Dean Smith, the long-time coach of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s basketball team, Gloria Steinem, a power behind the women’s rights movement and the founder of Ms. magazine, and Oprah Winfrey. Last year, Bob Dylan was among those awarded the medal.

It’s been a good year for Lynn, 81. A Broadway adaption of her autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter”  is in the works, with Zooey Deschanel of “New Girl” in the lead role.

“I feel better than I did when I was 40,” she told Rolling Stone. “I was working six or seven days a week, two shows a day. It was a little rough on me. I work when I want to now. I go out for a weekend, come in and don’t work for two more weeks. They’re calling for me all the time, but I got lazy [laughs]. But when I do a show, when people pay their way in, I give ’em everything I’ve got.”

Lynn, known as one of the first ladies of country music, is on tour promoting her autobiography–“Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter,” written with George Vecsey.

Her medal of honor alongside Gloria Steinem is not a coincidence.

In songs such as “Fist City” (in which she threatens to beat down a woman who’s after her man) and “The Pill” (a 1975 Top Ten country hit about the liberating powers of female birth control), Lynn expressed the concerns of everyday women with a directness that was at once revolutionary and unassuming. “To make it in this business, you either have to be first, great or different,”   Lynn said.  “And I was the first to ever go into Nashville, singin’ it like the women lived it.”

She’d always said that she married at 13 and had four children. In fact, the Associated Press last year corrected the record, revealing that her birth certificate showed she was 15 when she married Oliver Vanetta Lynn Jr. She was born on April 14, 1932.

The touchstones in Lynn’s life have been well covered, including the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” starring Sissy Spacek in the 1980 film which scored Spacek an Academy Award for Best Actress. Lynn was born a coal miner’s daughter in Butcher Holler, Ky. She’d always said that she married at 13 and had four children. In fact, the Associated Press last year corrected the record, revealing that her birth certificate showed she was 15 when she married Oliver Vanetta Lynn Jr. She was born on April 14, 1932.

Her husband got her a $17 Harmony guitar and encouraged her to write and sing. By 1959, she was singing for audiences, by 1962 she’d hit the country charts, and by the middle of that decade she was a star.

Lynn was inducted into the national Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York in 2008. She’s still writing, still singing, still performing.

“It’s a long way from Butcher Holler to Broadway in New York City,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I never imagined I’d see Coal Miner’s Daughter on a movie screen, and now I can’t believe it’s going to be on a stage for people to see,” Lynn said in Rolling Stone. “I’m going to be right there in the front row. And I know Zooey is going to be great – she sings and writes her own songs just like I do, and we even have the same color eyes!”

Lynn lives in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., no longer in the white-columned plantation house where she lived with her husband of 48 years, but in a smaller house nearby her husband built before he died in 1996.

Reserved tickets ($53, $45, $35 plus service fees) are available at the Peabody Box Office, Ticketmaster outlets, at Wal-Mart Supercenters, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 and online at For further information, please contact Helen Riger at 386-671-8252.

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