Prison Songs Four: Loretta Lynn – “Women’s Prison” (Van Lear Rose)
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose is available on iTunes.
by Walter Price
It’s no secret that Loretta Lynn is one of the finest storytellers in music history. Telling oral histories, standing up for women’s rights, documenting her past, and celebrating the everyday person. Although for a smidge of time during the 1990s it started to seem country radio and the newer generations may have forgotten about Lynn’s importance to the musical landscapes.
Then, in the early part of the new Century stepped in one of Rock N’ Roll’s newer heroes, Jack White. White has had his own history in respecting the sounds that came before him and the artists that created them. Evident in his work with the duo White Stripes and subsequently his solo work and producing. And try to find a better producing collaboration than the work he and Lynn created with 2004’s Van Lear Rose.
The critically acclaimed album and one of the most commercially successful of Lynn’s storied career is a classic among some of the best. And there is a track on the album I hear few talking about, and that is a crying shame. The track is “Women’s Prison’ and it is not only a heartbreaking prison song, it is undoubtedly one of the most haunting story songs of all time, hands down.
“Women’s Prison” is a crime of passion tale. A story of consequences not only for the passionate murder but for the ones suffering the collateral damages. And the song is also a story of the terrible social and emotional plights women find themselves in. With, at times, no other option but to take the ‘law’ into their own hands.
I’m in a women’s prison
With bars all around
I caught my darlin’ cheating
That’s when I shot him down
I caught him in a honky-tonk
With a girl I used to know
The door to my cell is open wide
And a voice cries out oh no
But with every action, there is a reaction and in this heavy drama, the woman done wrong is sentenced to death for her crime. And the future of all connected is devastatingly destroyed.
The judge says I’m guilty
My sentence is to die
I know I’ve been forgiven
But the price of love is high
The crowd outside is screamin’
Let the murderer die
But above all their voices
I can hear my mama cry
The price of love is high and the repercussions of dark, ardent spur of the moment reactions, higher. And there is not a better voice to tell such tales as The Coal Miners Daughter, Loretta Lynn.
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