How Loretta Lynn Turned a Banned Song Into a Huge Career Hit
Loretta Lynn didn't let a little thing like having her song banned at country radio get in the way of making it into a hit.
The year was 1975, and Lynn stirred up considerable controversy when she released a song called "The Pill." The lyrics celebrated the freedom that the advent of the birth control pill afforded to married women who didn't want to have more kids, and while the lyrics were really not particularly salacious, 60 country radio stations across the country banned the song for its theme.
As People reported, one preacher in Kentucky even took to the pulpit to decry Lynn and her song, but it backfired. His sermon sent "much of the congregation scurrying out to buy the record."
Lynn didn't see the point of the controversy.
Loretta Lynn Doesn't Care About Some Stupid Ban
“It’s just a wife arguin’ with her husband,” she pointed out. “The wife is sayin’, ‘You’ve kept me barefoot and pregnant all these years while you’ve been slippin’ around. Now you straighten out or I’ll start, now that I have the pill.’"
"It’s a husband and wife, not two unmarried people, so that’s not dirty," she added.
Released at the height of the sexual revolution and in the era of fierce debate over the equal rights amendment, "The Pill" didn't suffer too much from its ban. People reported it was selling 15,000 copies per week even without airplay from those stations. "The Pill" reached No. 5 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, and it crossed over to become Lynn's biggest pop hit, charting at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100. It has gone on to become one of Lynn's most enduring tracks, and it wasn't the only example of Lynn sticking to her guns; in fact, she said she would quit the Grand Ole Opry over the possibility they might ban her from performing "The Pill" there.
Lynn would go on to have a total of 14 songs banned over the course of her career, due to the way she repeatedly challenged the norms of the country genre. Many of them are among her biggest hits, demonstrating that sometimes the public gets it right even when the music business doesn't.
"The Pill" and Lynn's bold stance were the subject of a recent episode of The Secret History of Country Music, a video series that uncovers some of country music's greatest untold stories. Carrie Underwood, Kid Rock and Eric Church are among the artists already featured, with many more to come. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.
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