Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter" paints an honest picture of the type of poverty that existed in many Appalachian coal mining communities in the early part of the 1900's.
We are all familiar with the stereotypes of Eastern Kentuckians living in places with no roads or electricity or running water. We've all heard stories of children who grow up in the mountains with no shoes, no education, and no food. These are stereotypes that, as a native of Eastern Kentucky (I was born and raised in the same small town as Loretta), I have spent a good deal of my life trying to disprove. I certainly didn't grow up that way, my parents didn't grow up that way, and I know few people who did.
Well... Loretta Lynn did. Her father worked in the coal mines in the small community of Van Lear, KY. He worked long, back breaking hours for very little pay. It was an environment that made it very difficult to provide for a for his wife and eight children. Loretta sings of drawing water from a well, selling a hog to buy shoes, and even going without shoes in the summertime. It was a life of poverty to be sure.
What I take away from this song, however, is how Loretta's family chose to view their situation. From a material standpoint, they had nothing. But from their perspective, they were rich because they had each other. As Loretta says, "We were poor, but we had love." It speaks to another stereotype of the people of Appalachia... a strong bond and connection to family. As cliched as it sounds, Loretta Lynn didn't have much growing up, but she never felt deprived due to the love of her family. That's why she's proud, and not ashamed, to be a coal miner's daughter.
Loretta talked about the song, and her life in an interview with NPR back in 2000.