By 1976, Loretta Lynn had already earned nearly every award in country music when the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter penned her autobiography with writer George Vecsey. Coal Miner’s Daughter, named for the 1970 hit that described her hardscrabble upbringing in vivid detail. Soon after its release, the search was on for the actress who would play the lead role in the feature film based on the book.
Also in 1976, Texas-born Sissy Spacek was scaring the bejesus out of moviegoers in Brian DePalma’s Carrie, playing an outcast teen with telekinetic abilities. Unfamiliar with the actress, Lynn spotted her in a photograph and prematurely declared to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show that she’d found the woman who would play her on the big screen. Spacek, however, wasn’t convinced she should take the role. On her way to inform Lynn that she was taking another part and she should stop telling people she would be playing her, Spacek had the car radio tuned to a classical station that switched formats in the evening. When she suddenly heard “Coal Miner’s Daughter” coming from the speakers, her fate was sealed.
With preparations for filming underway, in January 1979, Lynn introduced Spacek onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, where the two sang Loretta’s 1966 classic, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man).” As heard in the above clip, Spacek had yet to fully adopt Lynn’s singing style. In fact, Coal Miner’s Daughter director Michael Apted had initially wanted to have Spacek lip-synching the tunes for the soundtrack. But with Lynn’s help, the Hollywood icon mastered the singing, and the role earned her a Best Actress Oscar. (The film’s soundtrack also earned Spacek a Grammy nomination.)
In an additional nod to the film’s success, in 1983, Spacek released a country album. The criminally underappreciated Hangin’ Up My Heart, produced by Rodney Crowell, spawned a Number 15 single, “Lonely But Only for You,” penned by K.T. Oslin.