Loretta Lynn’s Birthday Celebration: All-Star Performers, Surprises + More [PICTURES]
Loretta Lynn celebrated her 87th birthday (which occurs on April 14) a few days early this year, surrounded by her famous friends at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night (April 1). In a star-studded concert, country stars came onstage one after another to share their rendition of Lynn's greatest hits through the years, while she sat side stage and watched throughout a night full of surprises.
Martina McBride kicked the night off with, fittingly, Lynn's debut single, "Honky Tonk Girl," as the house band for the night, led by Dave Cobb, kept up the pace with ease. Quickly after, Keith Urban appeared onstage, an image of the country star and Lynn at the 2005 CMA Awards onscreen behind him. The country icon was reaching for tissues when Urban sat down at the piano and surprised her with a special version of "Blue Kentucky Girl," which transitioned into "Happy Birthday."
Grammy Awards winner Kacey Musgraves greeted Lynn, wished her happy birthday, and told the crowd, "I've been singing this song since I was about 12 years old," before breaking into "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man." She drew out the last note, about as high as her hair, and exited the stage like the former pageant queen she is.
A video poking fun at the fact that many of Lynn's songs were written about her late husband, Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn, and his antics played before Miranda Lambert took the stage. The newlywed thanked Lynn for writing songs with advice about “when husbands piss you off a little bit," and sang "Don't Come Home a'Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)." Her Pistol Annies bandmates, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, joined her for "Fist City," offering up goosebump-inducing three-part harmonies -- and three times the attitude.
Just icing on top of the cake that is her biggest career year yet, Brandi Carlile covered Patsy Cline's "She's Got You" in memory of the late singer, who was a close friend of Lynn's -- and, boy, did she sing. Carlile can bring down the house even when she's only given five minutes, and she likely earned herself a bevy of new fans in the process on Monday night. She then invited out a surprise guest, Tanya Tucker (whose new record Carlile is producing), to perform a new song while Carlile accompanied her on piano.
During a brief break, interview clips from Lynn and her family and friends played, emphasizing her revolutionary, no-holds-barred style of songwriting. "If you write about what's happened, it don't hurt so bad. It don't bother you as much," Lynn explained in one clip, before Cam, also the host for the night, sang a pop-rock rendition of "Rated X," one of Lynn's boldest songs.
Outlaw country star Margo Price, eight months pregnant, donned a long, white, vintage gown decorated with lace as an homage to Lynn's stage outfits in her heyday for her performance of, appropriately, "One's on the Way." Price made the song her own, interjecting some cleverness and changing the spoken interlude to "You're calling from a bar?" to "You're calling from the Five Spot?," name-dropping an East Nashville alt-country hang. She also shared with the audience that Lynn has given her permission to use her last name as her new daughter's middle name -- an offer she'll be taking.
One of the unexpectedly great, moments of the night was Darius Rucker's rendition of the feminist anthem "The Pill." He explained that he chose the song simply because no one else had, and while it may have been a weird selection, his amped-up version did justice to the original without changing any lyrics or pronouns.
Brandy Clark and Randy Houser's performances both came before a special surprise: The Highwomen made their debut, confirming their lineup as Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby. The four brilliant women sang "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," a song originally performed by Kitty Wells and later recorded by Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.
Another short intermission led into a round of "Happy Birthday" from the crowd, during which Urban kept his promise to the country legend and jumped out of a giant (fake) cake to her surprise.
The next phase of Lynn's birthday celebration recognized her series of duets with Conway Twitty: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks sang a stunning version of "After the Fire Is Gone," while McBride came back out to sing "Making Believe" with George Strait, and Lee Ann Womack -- in an outfit that was classic Lynn -- performed "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" with Alan Jackson. The latter pair had the crowd on their feet with their duet.
Lynn's gospel work also earned the spotlight via performances from Alison Krauss (a silky, beautiful "It Is Well With My Soul," upon request of the country matriarch) and Womack ("Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven").
As the night began to wrap up, John Carter Cash and his wife Ana Cristina Cash came up to play the Carter Family theme song, "Keep on the Sunny Side." They also introduced Lynn's sisters, Peggy Sue and Crystal Gayle, who shared stories and sang a couple of requests.
However, there was one more big moment in store: A new band came out, and the mood shifted as Jack White, who produced Lynn's 2004 album Van Lear Rose, took the stage.
"We're gonna turn it up a couple notches," he said, offering a classic White fuzz-rock performance of "Have Mercy," which most certainly won the award for most effect pedals used in a single song on Monday night. The entire arena became an electric wonderland, and Lynn was sitting straight up, smiling and clapping the whole time.
White then invited Price, who's signed to his label, Third Man Records, up to duet on the White-produced hit "Portland, Oregon." It was another of the best performances of the night, as both their voices rose above the crowd for a high-energy set.
For one final performance, all of the night's performers joined Lynn onstage for "Coal Miner's Daughter." Although she initially refused to sing, she grabbed the mic from her sister halfway into the second verse and led everyone in song until the end.
Lynn's all-star birthday celebration -- according to her, her first birthday party ever -- was a once-in-a-lifetime show. It brought tears, laughs, gasps and a warmth because of the love Lynn shares with the country music community, and her kindness exuded to everyone who sang for her. There could be no more fitting a tribute to an artist who paved the way for songwriters, women in country music and more artists than she likely knows. We can only imagine it was one of her happiest birthdays.
Loretta Lynn Through the Years