In the midst of Loretta Lynn’s memoir about her friendship with another country-pop legend, Patsy Cline, the intimacy of Lynn’s memory might seem too close for comfort. Cline, we learn, teaches Lynn who is younger than how to navigate the male-dominated music business in Nashville. Lynn claimed it was Klein who showed her how to shave her legs – and, deeper, how to improve her marriage.
Among many of Lynn’s lively domestic details, look again at “Me and Patsy Kickin ‘Up Dust: My Friendship with Patsy Cline” (Grand Central Publishing, 240 pages., ★★★ out of four), what emerged was a sincere appreciation of how one great singer star lends wisdom that is hard to come by for another. Indeed, by the time a prospective Lynn went to Nashville with her husband, Oliver “Doo” Lynn, and their children, Klein had managed to break through with the hit song “Walkin ‘After Midnight.”
Cline has a great voice that combines emotional power with severe heartache, and the power of interpretation stamped every song without being erased. With “I Fall to Pieces” and his trademark hit, “Crazy” – written by Willie Nelson long before he became Willie Nelson – Cline was one of the first crossover stars, bridging country and pop, and one of several women’s powerhouses in Nashville.
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“He is from the South, but doesn’t speak like that,” Lynn wrote. “He can sing whatever he wants.” Cline’s rise to the big star came to a halt in 1963 when he died in a private plane crash, along with Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Cline’s manager, Randy Hughes.
In her short time as Cline’s protégé, Lynn made the transition from Nashville as a newcomer to the upcoming Grand Ole Opry star. In Lynn’s slim book (written with her daughter Patsy Russell, named for Cline), she praised Cline’s hard and gentle advice, warm friendship and good humor by keeping her on track. When Cline entered pop legend, Lynn continued her friend’s fake zeal, mapping the smash from “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” to “Coal Mining Princess” which limited her career, which made her greatly admire the national anthem, books and film.
The real heart of Lynn’s new memoir lies in the reverse flow of her feminist solidarity. Lynn had given birth to four children by the time she was 23 years old, and her young marriage was built on the tradition of a housewife who was destined for conflict with the independence she fought for and found in her career. Cline, too, marries children, and she shares with Lynn the pain and frustration caused by male rights, alcoholism and infidelity.
Even so, the two singers and their husbands found their Nashville life with love and mutual support. This book commemorates the ups and downs of marriage, along with #metoo’s inevitable moments that Lynn encountered among Opry’s male stars. A message of fierce self-respect and the good times echoed in Lynn’s memory of herself and Klein as Nashville colleagues and confidants. There’s a funny gal-pal business about applying make-up, wearing tacky wigs and buying dresses, and negotiating hard balls with promoters and managers.
But compared to the biographical wealth of “Coal Mining Princess,” Lynn’s latest piece is a piece of life that, in the end, feels rather thin – if only because her years with Klein are too little. They did not allow Lynn to get to know her friend in full time. As Cline suggested to Lynn after her brief appearance, it is best to let the audience want more, and so will the book.
‘It’s a shame to let it die’:Loretta Lynn shares her frustration with country music
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