Loretta Lynn made a career out of saying things no one else would.
And on this date in 1972, she released one of her most controversial songs, “Rated X,” from her 1973 Entertainer of the Year album (which she subsequently released after becoming the first female to win Entertainer of the Year in 1972). It would eventually become her sixth #1 country single as a solo artist.
A solo write from Loretta, it didn’t sit well with a lot of radio station managers at the time because she addressed divorce and the double standards that men and women faced at the time in a way that was so honest it made people uncomfortable. A lot of them even banned it before they even heard it just because of the title alone.
After it started picking up steam and they realized people actually wanted to hear the track, that quickly changed as it shot up the charts.
Now, keep in mind this was in the early ’70s, it wasn’t all that common to hear topics like that on the radio at all, especially from a woman’s perspective, and Loretta knew that:
“I think it was because, you know, you’re – been a married woman. I think when you write about it, they take it to heart, too, you know, they – people do. So I think that was it.
It just starts out, if you’ve been a married woman, things didn’t seem to work out, divorce is the key to being loose and free. So you’re going to be talked about. So that’s exactly how it is, you know?”
But of course, none of that bullshit stopped her from speaking her mind, and she really held nothing back in terms of her feelings about those societal expectations and standards:
“And if you’re rated X you’re some kind of goal Even men turnin’ silver try to make But I think it’s wrong to judge every picture If a cheap camera makes a mistake And when your best friend’s husband says to you You’ve sure started lookin’ good You should’ve known he would And he would if he could And he will if you’re rated X.”
Ironically though, Loretta has never been divorced, and was married to her husband, Doolittle, until he passed away in 1996.
Though they had a famously tumultuous marriage, it’s pretty impressive that she could write such a spot-on, honest song about what it was like to be a divorced woman having never experienced it for herself.
Of course, that’s the kind of stuff that made her a legend.
It’s funny to think back about how controversial a song like that was at the time compared to what you hear on the radio these days, Loretta always felt that it fit right along with all her other classic tunes:
“You know, another old, dirty record from Loretta Lynn.”