Music News & Reviews

Loretta Lynn to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Singer Loretta Lynn, a native of Butcher Holler, will be among 16 recipients at the White House later this year.
Singer Loretta Lynn, a native of Butcher Holler, will be among 16 recipients at the White House later this year. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Butcher Holler native Loretta Lynn's unlikely country music success story will now include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday afternoon that the country music legend, whose humble Kentucky mountain beginnings have always been a big part of her story, is among 16 people, including former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem and the late Sally Ride, who will be awarded the medal at a White House ceremony later this year.

A date for the ceremony has not been set.

The medal is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to a White House news release.

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy created the medal with the stroke of a pen to an executive order. In the five decades since, more than 500 people have been recognized for contributions to society of all stripes.

"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,'' Obama said in a statement.

In the 1960s and '70s, Lynn broke boundaries in country music for women and country music with No. 1 hits including Don't Come Home a' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind), You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man) and Coal Miner's Daughter.

The hit records have been farther between in recent years, but she has remained active and relevant in the 21st century, particularly through her collaborations with Jack White. The White-produced Van Lear Rose won Grammy Awards in 2005 for best country album and best country collaboration. They joined two other Grammys for Lynn's earlier work.

Lynn, 81, received a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2010 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003, during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Lynn's life was, of course, the subject of the 1980 hit movie Coal Miner's Daughter, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one for Sissy Spacek as best actress.


Besides Lynn, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be awarded to:

Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper's coverage of Watergate.

Bill Clinton: served as Arkansas' governor before being elected the 42nd president. He will be recognized also for his humanitarian work through the Clinton Foundation, which promotes global public health, economic development and environmental protection. The White House also noted his work with former President George W. Bush to raise money for Haiti after the Caribbean nation's devastating 2010 earthquake.

Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye will receive the award posthumously.

Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics.

Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.

Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride will receive the award posthumously.

Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin will receive the award posthumously.

Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.

Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina's basketball team for 36 years.

Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women's rights activist.

C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.

Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court's chief judge.

Oprah Winfrey: Her career as an American broadcaster, actress and activist has spanned decades, with The Oprah Winfrey Show becoming the highest-rated talk show in America for 25 years. Her philanthropic efforts have been focused largely on education and creating opportunities for women and girls, in the United States and Africa.