Country stars turn out for tribute to Loretta Lynn

Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:41am EDT
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By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - It's a long way from the winding roads of Butcher Holler, Kentucky, to the superhighway of country music, but on Tuesday night "Coal Miner's Daughter" Loretta Lynn was honored for her more than 50 years of songs.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the group that awards the Grammys, gave Lynn their Merit Award in a night of music. Among the stars performing were Garth Brooks, Kid Rock, Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack.

Reba McEntire hosted the event, performing one of Lynn's hits, "If You're Not Gone Too Long."

"She still inspires me and every other female country singer out there," McEntire told the audience in Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium.

McEntire highlighted Lynn's early songs like "Don't Come Home A Drinkin'" as numbers that "definitely hit a nerve," and she noted that Lynn was not one to shy away from controversy, as when she released birth-control-themed "The Pill."

"She was my hero when I was growing up in Oklahoma, and she is still my hero," McEntire said.

The Recording Academy's president and chief executive, Neil Portnow, told fans that the night was three days short of the 50th anniversary of Lynn's debut at the home of country, the Grand Ole Opry, on that very same stage at the Ryman.

Lynn, an icon of music who grew up poor in Kentucky's coal-mining country and rose to fame and fortune, released 70 albums and charted 16 No. 1 hits in a career spanning more than five decades.   Continued...

<p>Country legend Loretta Lynn performs "After the Fire is Gone" with country singer Garth Brooks during the Grammy Salute to Country Music honoring her in Nashville, Tennessee October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Tami Chappell</p>