Loretta Lynn is sitting aboard her tour bus reminiscing about old friends like Patsy Cline (“Patsy was her own woman and that’s what I adored. I thought, ‘By golly, I’m not the only one — Patsy stands up for herself too.'”) and George Jones (“I bought his old tour bus, but he’d shot through the roof and I never did get that bus to stop leaking!”). Talk turns to Willie Nelson, with whom she recently recorded a duet, “Lay Me Down,” on her Full Circle album, out earlier this year.
“He’s one of the greatest people in the whole world,” Lynn says. “I know he smokes pot, but my goodness, there’s a lot people doing a lot worse then smoking pot!” In fact, she says, she tried it herself, not six months ago. “I got glaucoma and they gave me one of these cigarettes,” she tells PEOPLE. “I took one smoke off of it and it hit me right here in the chest. I like to have died! Glaucoma is just going to have to take over.”
But that may be one of the few things the 84-year-old country queen has given up on. Despite a fall that put her in the hospital last August, Lynn is still touring, writing new songs and releasing albums, including her latest, White Christmas Blue.
“They tell me to rest all the time,” Lynn says. “But I’m not tired!”
For more on Loretta Lynn and to see how she celebrates the holidays with her big Tennessee family, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Keeping fit, however, means doing it her own way — and the singer shuns the idea of working out. “I ain’t going to do no exercise! I hate exercise! I had six kids and got over that, so why should I worry about exercise?” Instead, “I just work the stage. We do a 90-minute show.”
At one time in her life, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” who grew up in poverty in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, had to sing to feed her family, but these days Lynn performs because it’s her passion.
“I don’t have to work now. I don’t have to, but I love to,” says Lynn, whose long list of awards and accomplishments include three Grammys, eight Country Music Association Awards (including the very first female vocalist award in 1967) and a Kennedy Center Honor. But she’s not done yet.
“I ain’t ready to lay down and die,” she says. “I don’t see no reason to quit right now.”