Review: Loretta Lynn recalls friendship with Patsy Cline

“Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust” (Grand Central Publishing), by Loretta Lynn

They were born the same year, both grew up poor, married difficult men, and became two of the biggest country stars the world has ever seen. Loretta Lynn was just five months older than her friend Patsy Cline but has outlived her by almost 60 years.

In her new memoir, “Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust,” the self-described coal miner’s daughter from Butcher Holler, Kentucky, reminisces about their friendship and what it was like to “kick down the golden country music doors” at a time when folks said women couldn’t sell tickets or records.

Their friendship began in 1961 when Lynn performed Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” on the radio and dedicated it to the more established singer, who was recovering from a near-fatal car crash. Cline summoned her to the hospital, and the two forged a bond that lasted until Cline’s death in a 1963 plane crash.

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“Did I know meeting Patsy that day would change my life? No. How could I? But I knew I’d found a real friend: a great singer, a proud momma, a woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself,” Lynn writes.

Turns out, they had a lot in common. Neither had much schooling. Cline was sexually abused by her father; Lynn, a mother of four by 22. But of the two, Lynn was by far the more naïve, shocked to hear Cline yelling at her manager, telling her she could never do the same. “Hells bells, Loretta!” Cline responded. “Those boys are your managers, not your bosses!”

Cline taught Lynn how to drive, shave her legs, even spice up her love life. Lynn says she never had an orgasm — after 15 years of marriage — until the night she wore the sexy lingerie Cline gave her. Cline also showed her how to handle the industry’s “dirty old men.” “You gotta set them straight, Little Gal,” Cline said. “Show them you don’t go for that kind of thing.”

Lynn is, above all, a great storyteller, and this book is filled with warm and funny stories, as heartfelt and true as any of her songs. But underneath the folksy veneer is an unvarnished view of what it took for her and Cline to make it to the top. “I love seeing women be good friends to each other,” she says.

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