When country music icon Loretta Lynn said she’s dealt with her fair share of misery in her long life, she wasn’t exaggerating. But family members said no loss has hit her as hard as that of her eldest son.
At times, life on the streets was harsh for the “coal miner’s daughter,” resulting in hospitalizations. And as it turns out, she was already in intensive care when she found out about her son’s death.
In 1984, Lynn’s oldest son, Jack Benny, rode his horse out on the family ranch in Tennessee and never returned. Authorities found his body in a river the next day while his horse waited ashore nearby. They suspected he was attempting to cross the river called Hurricane Mills, which bisects Lynn’s property.
Although Lynn had a daughter who was older than Jack and a total of six children, he was considered her darling. “They were very close,” said daughter Patsy (People). “That was probably because he took after my father.”
Jack also had some health issues, caused in part by alcohol, and had joined his father in quitting. He was married with a four-year-old and two teenage children from a previous relationship. Patsy said: “[He’d] straightened up and started caring for his family.”
Lynn was on tour when Jack died and the morning after she was found unconscious on her bus before she even got the news. An ambulance took her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated in intensive care and diagnosed with exhaustion.
Her husband Oliver Lynn, whom she married when she was a teenager, came to her when he broke the news of Jack’s death. “She took it a lot better than we expected,” her manager David Skepner told People at the time. “Loretta will be fine.”
But Patsy said her mum “tore everything to pieces” over the loss. Lynn flew back to Nashville on a chartered plane and remained hospitalized until the day of the funeral. Afterward, Skepner admitted, “It’s finally started to hit her,” adding, “She’s a weary woman.”
“She does what she has to do and later breaks down,” he described. “Without that drive, superstars wouldn’t be superstars.”
In the ’80s, after more than two decades on the road, Lynn was still touring and financially responsible for her large family. At times, the pressure caught up with the “Fist City” singer, and she was hospitalized for various ailments, including unexplained power outages.
Lynn once confessed that she tried to cope by taking pills that “set.” [her] to sleep,” but Skepner insisted that no drugs were involved as she collapsed before learning of Jack’s death. “The main cause is exhaustion,” he explained. “There was nothing else wrong.”
And Lynn did more than make a name for herself and take care of her family with all that hard work. She paved the way for other “singers” in country music.
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