The Culture and Rhetorical Style of Loretta Lynn

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This is a comprehensive rhetorical analysis covering a number of the rhetorical devices that Loretta Lynn has employed throughout the years to communicate with her audience and to influence others. Loretta Lynn has been my hero and role model since I was eight years old. Loretta has inspired me immensely throughout my lifetime and impacted my development and interests. Therefore, I seek to honor her through this work. If you have ever had the privilege of hearing Loretta's glorious melodies, you will enjoy this piece and perhaps learn something in the process. I know I did.

Submitted: April 06, 2019

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Submitted: April 06, 2019

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Glinda Bustamante

March 25, 2019

Professor Schulze

Comprehensive Rhetorical Analysis

The Culture and Rhetorical Style of Loretta Lynn

 

When considering great American country music, it is troublesome to imagine a world without the unique and powerful contributions of award-winning singer and songwriter, Loretta Webb Lynn. Loretta was not only a brilliant folk singer; she simultaneously exerted a meaningful influence upon the nation and spiritually encouraged the women who listened to her music. She paved the way for females to break out of the submissive, bootlicking molds of the era and to embrace a daring, confident attitude throughout their lives.

The trademark rhetorical style she embodied in her songwriting and personal life was able to carry her message farther than the glorious melody of her singing voice. Her extraordinary personality and timeless works changed the nation’s expectations of a woman’s role and abilities. Her courage uplifted women everywhere who were stifled by the patriarchal status quo that our society was accustomed to and changed the face of country music forever.

Loretta Lynn’s endearing southern charm, remarkable story-telling ability, humility, and relatable manner were key strategical elements she used to speak to women across class and party lines to unify and to strengthen women as a whole. Within the context of a multitude of affectionate collaborations she participated in throughout the years, such as interviews with Chapter 16’s Margaret Renkl, On the Record with Ralph Emery, and the Charlie Rose talk show; Loretta’s quick wit and humble wisdom spoke volumes to the controversial issues women faced and bolstered support from anyone who heard her message.

By utilizing stories from her modest beginnings and referencing her experiences as a blue-collar wife and mother of six, she captured the attention of listeners and drew people into an intimate conversation with herself which left enduring marks upon the collective psyche and beliefs of Americans at large. Her honesty and transparency have engraved a lasting impression upon the world. She has unlocked forbidden doors for women in the music industry and blazed a trail for both working women, and/or stay-at-home mothers who came to be inspired by her success and bravery.

On April 14, 1932, Loretta Webb was born into a poverty-stricken family subsisting in a rural, isolated village in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Loretta was the second of eight children born to her hard-working homemaker mother, Clara Marie, and coal miner father, Melvin Theodore Webb (USA today). They hung their hats in an unembellished, rustic home without electricity, running water, or modern luxuries. Loretta was integral to the care and raising of her six younger siblings.

She met her one and only husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn at a pie social in Butcher Hollow when she was fifteen years old (Musician Guide). Doolittle bought Loretta’s pie, which had mistakenly been made with all salt and no sugar. He paid a whopping five dollars for it. Afterward, he walked Loretta home. She swiftly fell in love that night, beneath the light of a silvery moon.

They married in January of 1948. Loretta’s husband moved her across the country to Washington state, where they welcomed four children by the time that she was twenty-one. Her husband Oliver was an alcoholic veteran who often left her and the children home alone for days or weeks at a time, with nothing but strawberries and dandelion greens to eat (Northwest Prime Time).

When their eldest daughter was ten years old, Oliver bought Loretta a guitar for their anniversary. She taught herself to play and wrote heartfelt songs about her everyday life. She practiced singing while taking care of the kids and doing work around the house. Within just a few months, Doolittle arranged for her to play in numerous local bars which led to more appearances and exposure. By 1960, Loretta was performing with the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. From housewife to nationally recognized country superstar, Loretta’s ability to connect with people distinguished her from the musical artists of her era and set her apart as the most-awarded female in country music history.

In an interview (Chapter 16) with Margaret Renkl of Chapter 16, Margaret writes that “In person, she has the disarming habit of treating every person she talks to like a long-lost friend, even interviewers she’s never met before.” In Margaret’s interview, Loretta explains to the audience that she was dumbfounded when her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, became a bestseller. She tells the audience that she believes that everyone is just like her, which equalizes all listeners and unites them with Lynn’s purpose. Loretta generously connects her work with that of each person who hears her songs or attends her concerts.

Loretta goes on to demonstrate, in the tone of her signature southern charm, that she is not unlike the women who listen to her music; she is every woman and every woman is her. Fluently conversing in her native tongue of Kentucky mountain language, she is able to instantly bond with southern audiences as well as intrigue fascinated northerners to listen with irresistible curiosity.

Metaphors of domestic simplicity cause listeners to approach her message without intimidation or pretense. Statements like, “You’ve got to continue to grow, or you're just like last night's cornbread -stale and dry,” easily conjure up images that explain her line of thinking and leave no room for misinterpretation (Good Reads). The usage of this dialectical rhetorical device effectively invites people to draw near to Loretta’s objectives with sensitivity, lacking a defense of hyper-intelligence or vainglorious pomp. Lynn catches more flies with honey rather than vinegar. The impact of her unapologetic, southerly spirit manifests itself within the loyal following of a multitude of those who reckon her an inspiration.

 In Loretta’s On the Record interview with Ralph Emery, humility is magnificently wielded by Loretta as a mighty weapon of subtle warfare. Ralph introduces her to a crowd of fans with a reading of the plaque that she was awarded from the Country Music Hall of Fame (Ralph Emery). He recites a long list of Loretta’s impressive accomplishments and an array of her most grandiloquent achievements; including an award-winning major motion picture, her autobiographies, as well as a litany of accolades. He rounds out her introduction with an acknowledgment of adoration for the undeniable influence that she has imprinted upon countless other musicians.

However, moments after Loretta embarks upon the stage and is seated with Ralph, she immediately applies her impeccable storytelling skills which quickly bring the audience down to earth with her. Her primary goal is to provide proof to the crowd that she’s no highfalutin Hollywood movie star, but one of them.

She regales the audience with memories about a performance rehearsal where Dean Martin attempted to have her sit upon his lap like other female guests that regularly worked with him. This invitation contradicted with what her mother had taught her about such interactions. She refers to her mother as “Mommy” throughout the story in a child-like display of respect. She lets Dean know that no matter how many young fillies have perched on his lap in the past, she would not be joining them tonight.

This anecdotal tale culminates with Loretta’s dressing room being filled with bouquets of flowers and an acknowledgment from the owner of the club that she is special and admired for not letting other people’s expectations of her dictate what decisions she makes as an artist. She humbly honors her mother, which contrasts with what might be expected of a celebrity of her caliber. The grace and meekness she exuded paradoxically translated into powerful rhetorical tools that proved totally effective.

Next in line in her interview with Ralph, Loretta further drives home a spirit of humility through her storytelling when she describes the first time she ever encountered an indoor toilet. Loretta explains to her fans how she was scared of the automatic flushing of the commode at a rest-stop gas station that her husband once brought her to. Loretta ran out of the bathroom with her britches around her ankles in terror of what the toilet was capable of.

She said she feared being sucked down into oblivion and fled the scene of the crime into the arms of a bewildered husband for protection. She elicits an eruption of laughter from the audience and amazement from the crowd at the revelation of her unsophisticated way of life. In this way, Loretta places herself beneath her audience; assuring them that she is not an extravagant, unapproachable character that cannot be trusted. She solidifies this image continually, and does not depart from the sincere desire to have others feel that they can identify with her humble, open style and folksy nature.

Rather than dreading being looked down upon or overcompensating thereby, Loretta embraces her lowliness and receives glory for owning her naiveite with genuine humor. With Loretta, all ground is common, hypocrisy is blasphemy, and there is no such thing as an outcast or a stranger.

Finally, Loretta discloses the fascinating story of her first pregnancy; like only she can. She makes frequent eye contact with the crowd and engages the audience with the telling of what happened to her the day when she went to visit the doctor after her belly started growing. She tells the audience that she did not even know what the word “Pregnant” meant. One might assume that all women are born with a complete understanding of the process of bringing new life into the world, but Loretta swiftly dispels that notion by admitting that she only thought that she was “getting fat” and that it was impossible for her to be with child.

She elaborates upon the shock that she experienced upon discovering that sleeping with her husband had inadvertently caused her to become pregnant- and that babies were not grown in a cabbage patch, as she had previously believed. In Loretta’s simple accounting of her enlightenment about the birds and the bees, she at once distinguishes herself from others and unites herself with them at the very same time. It is impossible to listen to Loretta and not be attracted by her warm, cheerful personality.  

When Loretta is invited to Charlie Rose’s talk show in 1997, the essence of Lynn’s relatability is amply illustrated by her method of connection with her fans through her unbelievable life story. It may appear to be an oxymoron to state that at once, her story is unbelievable; but also, that one can relate to it. Yet, what Loretta Lynn pulls off here and elsewhere is not an ordinary talent, but a unique gift that she has naturally mastered.

Loretta kicks off the interview (Charlie Rose) by acknowledging the recent loss of her husband, Doolittle, in 1996. She gives voice to her grief in a respectful, solemn fashion which demands affiliation with all those who have ever lost a loved one. Her transparent descriptions of bereavement vividly capture the loneliness and pain of devastation that one encounters when the inevitable end of immortality descends upon the chosen. Loretta’s testimony touches upon universally shared end-of-life matters, inescapably drawing people into her plight. Meanwhile, the sorrow she expresses bonds listeners to the heartache she experienced and at the same time, helps them to cope with their own.

Loretta relates the agony of the human condition to her listeners by sweeping the board with simple, easy to understand witticisms that paint a clear picture of the raw emotions that she attempts to portray within the revelations of her guileless confessions. She reverently lists all of the elements of her life that died with her husband; such as his partnership, his friendship, his support, and his contributions to her career.

Even after all of the suffering that her husband had subjected her to throughout their 48-year marriage, Loretta somehow miraculously finds it in her heart to forgive his trespasses and to honor her life-mate with dignified praises and loving expressions of undying loyalty. Listeners can easily detect the sincerity of Lynn’s descriptions of her loss and sense the repercussions inflicted upon her soul.

In lieu of hiding her helplessness or shying away from the risk of shame, Loretta voluntarily exposes her vulnerability to the public. She sanguinely relies upon the kindness of strangers to comprehend her fragile, temporal state of mind. This spirit of humanity, blanketing Loretta wherever she goes, has transformed her into the paramount of relatable figures throughout her lifetime and has endeared her to the public for six majestic decades.

Loretta Lynn’s renowned body of work and meaningful contributions to the world of country music have far surpassed other artists of the last century, without question. If country music were a Queen, Loretta Lynn would most certainly be the gleaming crown upon her head.

Due to Loretta’s unprecedented implementation of a combination of rhetorical devices employing her characteristic southern charm, story-telling ability, humility, and relatability; Loretta is one of the most successful female rhetoricians of our day. Loretta has attained a legendary status unparalleled by lesser talent. Her simple messages of hope and encouragement continue to inspire generations of women. She is truly a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Loretta Lynn: the anthem and epitome of the noble, everyday woman.

 

 

Works Cited

1.) Evangeline, Hermelinda, director. Loretta Lynn Interview + Rare Footage on Charlie Rose (1997) Loretta Lynn, Legendary. YouTube, YouTube, 7 Dec. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxCfX_DRSMw .

2.) Jones, Brent. “AP: Country Singer Loretta Lynn Married at 15, Not 13.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 18 May 2012, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/people/story/2012-05-18/loretta-lynn/55068814/1 .

3.) “Loretta Lynn Quotes (Author of Loretta Lynn).” Goodreads, Goodreads, 2019, https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/76408.Loretta_Lynn .

4.) “Loretta Lynn Biography.” Loretta Lynn Biography, Net Industries, 2019, https://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608004026/Loretta-Lynn.html .

5.) “Loretta Lynn: How the Country Superstar Got Her Start in Washington State.” Northwest Prime Time, 29 Aug. 2015, http://northwestprimetime.com/news/2015/aug/29/loretta-lynn-how-country-superstar-got-her-start-w/ .

6.) Music, Gertie, director. Loretta Lynn On The Record With Ralph Emery 1997. YouTube, YouTube, 11 June 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBQtvnt3iC8 .

7.) Renkl, Margaret. “Still Proud to Be a Coal Miner's Daughter.” Chapter 16, 4 Nov. 2010, https://chapter16.org/still-proud-to-be-a-coal-miners-daughter/

Images

1.) https://www-tc.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/files/2016/02/LLSCAN_037-554x700.jpg .


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