Names in the news, May 19

Posted May 18, 2012, at 4:48 p.m.

Country music legend Loretta Lynn is three years older than she has led people to believe, an age change that undermines the story she told of being married at 13 in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” documents obtained by The Associated Press show. Lynn’s birth certificate on file at the state Office of Vital Statistics in Frankfort, Ky., shows that Loretta Webb was born on April 14, 1932, in Johnson County, Ky. That makes her 80 years old, not 77. Also on file are her marriage license and two affidavits from her mother, Clara Marie Ramey, and S.W. Ward Jr., who was not related to the family, listing the same birthdate. The records weren’t filed until 1965, which meant that Lynn needed multiple documents to prove her age at that time. Lynn’s signature appears on the document as Loretta Webb Lynn. Melvin Webb lists his daughter “Loretta” as 7 years old for the 1940 Census, according to a digital copy on file at the Kentucky Historical Society. Lynn’s marriage license, obtained by the AP from the Johnson County (Tenn.) clerk’s office lists her as 15 on Jan. 10, 1948. In “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the autobiography that became an Academy Award-winning film, Lynn told a different story — that she was married at 13 and was a mother of four by 18. Most books and public references to Lynn list her current age as 77. When contacted by the AP, Lynn’s spokeswoman, Nancy Russell of Nashville, Tenn., declined comment. She said that Lynn has told her before in no uncertain terms, “If anyone asks how old I am, tell them it’s none of their business!” The discrepancy is significant because her age is woven into her compelling life story, made famous in her 1976 bestselling autobiography, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and the subsequent film starring Sissy Spacek. The Grammy-winning singer recently announced that it will become a Broadway musical, starring actress and singer Zooey Deschanel.

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