Loretta Lynn sings what polite or shy Southern women long to say:
“You’re the reason our kids are ugly”
“Don’t come home a drinkin’ with lovin’ on your mind”
“You ain’t woman enough to take my man”
“You'd better close your face and stay out of my way / If you don't wanna go to Fist City”
Salty, punchy, brassy. What’s not to love about Loretta Lynn’s songs?
As we move into August and enjoy the free, new preventive services such as birth control afforded to women through the Affordable Care Act, I’m reminded of one of my all-time favorite Lynn songs, “The Pill.”
["The Pill" starts at 1:21]
Ok, first process that Loretta Lynn is 80 years old here singing about contraception.
As you might imagine, when Lynn recorded “The Pill” in 1972 it was controversial: radio stations banned it and her record label refused to release it until 1975.
But Lynn had experience with life pre-pill (which was approved in 1960 by the FDA). At fourteen she had her first baby and by nineteen, three more.
Particularly in the South, the pill gave women more autonomy over their lives. The pill represented freedom from fear of pregnancy. And the pill allowed women to follow through on the adventures of their lives. As Lynn sings:
“You wined me and dined me / When I was your girl / Promised if I’d be your wife / You’d show me the world / But all I’ve seen of this old world / Is a bed and a doctor bill / I’m tearin’ down your brooder house / Cause now I’ve got the pill”
According to an interview in Playgirl magazine (I know! Loretta Lynn has an interview in Playgirl magazine?!) “she had been congratulated after the song's success by a number of rural physicians, telling her how "The Pill" had done more to highlight the availability of birth control in isolated, rural areas, than all the literature they'd released.” Lynn’s rebellious art provided education in an accessible, relatable, and hilarious way to rural women who otherwise would not have known about the pill.
As she reminds us at the conclusion of her song, the pill exists not only for the pleasure of women, but as a gift to men as well. “Feelin’ good comes easy now” since the pill allows sex to be separated from the fear of pregnancy. “Oh daddy don’t you worry none/ ‘Cause mama’s got the pill” she reassures her man with a wink.
So as we celebrate summer lovin' this month, remember that everybody wins with “The Pill”—women, men, and even country music fans!