“Don’t sing ‘Happy Birthday,’” she fussed at her concert audience at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on her 85th birthday on April 14, 2017. “This ain’t my birthday. … You know I ain’t but 26.”
But on Monday, the timeless country legend was positively glowing about the upcoming public celebration of her 87th birthday.
And why wouldn’t she? An astonishing spectacle of stars — including fellow Hall of Famers Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and George Strait — and 18,000 fans lucky enough to snag tickets will be showing up to honor the country queen at a one-of-a-kind benefit concert on April 1 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
This time around, Lynn won’t have to go to work on her birthday. Don’t expect even a duet: “No, I come to listen,” she said at a morning press event at the Grand Ole Opry House.
After a six-decade career and countless awards, Lynn has more than earned a satisfying rest on her laurels — not to mention a nonstop lovefest, which the birthday concert is destined to be. Indeed, the adoration began on Monday when Brooks surprised Lynn to help make the announcement.
“I love you to pieces,” Brooks gushed, reaching back to a long-ago New York encounter he had with another legend, the late film great Katharine Hepburn, to describe Loretta Lynn’s mystique: “There’s this beautiful thing [Hepburn] said. She goes, ‘If a woman has ‘it,’ it doesn’t matter what she doesn’t have. And if a woman doesn’t have ‘it,’ it doesn’t matter what else she does have.’ And I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who has ‘it’ as much as Miss Loretta.”
Brooks will get to make his point again in song in April. Besides Jackson and Strait, he’ll be joined on stage by Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Trisha Yearwood, Darius Rucker, Kacey Musgraves, the Pistol Annies, Martina McBride, Jack White, Margo Price, and Brandy Clark — a list that organizers anticipate will grow.
RELATED: Loretta Lynn Steps Out For First Time After Stroke To Honor Alan Jackson
None will shine brighter, of course, than the guest of honor, even as recent health challenges have left her in a fragile state. Her two Ryman shows marking her 85th birthday in 2017 were her last full concerts. A month later she suffered a stroke that forced her to cancel all of her upcoming performance dates. She was dealt another health setback a year ago when she broke a hip. In October, a hospitalization for unspecified reasons kept her from personally accepting a CMT Artist of a Lifetime award. Sissy Spacek, who won an Oscar for playing Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” stood in for the ailing singer at that Nashville event.
When asked about her health on Monday, Lynn beamed and declared, “I feel great,” then added even more emphatically: “I feel great.”
An early birthday cake presented to Lynn also drew attention to the fact that her years aren’t all that she’s celebrating. The massive sheet cake was decorated with the cover of her latest studio album, the critically acclaimed Wouldn't It Be Great, released in September.
This month it earned Lynn her 18th Grammy nomination, this time for best country solo performance. (She’s won three, along with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.)
Wouldn’t It Be Great contains three new songs co-written by Lynn, who has penned such classics as “Fist City” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).” On Monday, Lynn indicated that, while her writing has slowed down, she has songs left in her yet.
“I’ve done quite a bit,” she said with trademark understatement. “I want to get back into it real good, though, like I used to write. I used to write all the time. Now I’m just writing when I want to, and that’s not good” — she added with a laugh — “because I don’t want to.”
Tickets for the April 1 show, “Loretta Lynn: All-Star Birthday Celebration Concert,” go on sale this Friday. Net proceeds will benefit the Opry Trust Fund and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.