Loretta Lynn’s “Van Lear Rose” is the first track off of her 2004 all-original comeback album in collaboration with garage punker Jack White of White Stripes. Unlike all the other albums she has released before, she claimed that this was the countrier than anything she had ever cut. It was ragged yet charming and lively, like a loose and fresh jam session with friends, with Lynn’s musical essence purely poured into it. After all, she penned all thirteen tracks.
But what made this a standout from all her previous albums was that it gave us a deeper insight into who Loretta Lynn was as a songwriter. We already knew she was one to never back down from speaking the truths of her life as a poor girl married to a cheating, drunkard husband, a teen mother, and a woman in a male-dominated genre. She fought with songs and gave voice to the unheard. But what most probably didn’t know was that Lynn was more than just her controversial narratives. She could write everything from heartwarming stories, to heart-wrecking ballads, country rave-ups, and even gospel songs. One of these was her three-minute and 50-second long song “Van Lear Rose,” which she co-wrote with her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell.
Behind the Song
“Van Lear Rose” was a tribute song to Lynn’s mother, Clara Webb. In Honky Tonk Girl: My Life In Lyrics, Lynn shared about her mother. According to Lynn, her mom was part Cherokee Indian with beautiful curled black hair and the loveliest skin. And when she was a child, she had always wanted to look like her, but she could never be as pretty as her mom.
And the lyrics of this song was a recollection of her father’s stories of how he met her mother, whom he called “Van Lear Rose” (named after the Kentucky coal mining community Van Lear where Lynn’s childhood home was located) and fell in love with her.
The Story of Van Lear Rose
An unrivaled local beauty who fell in love with a simple foreign man sounds like a common plot for a love story film, but it was exactly how Lynn’s mother and father met.
As a little girl, Lynn used to sit and listen to her father’s stories. And one of those started with an old photograph that Loretta’s dad took out. It was her mom, her father’s rose, whose unparalleled beauty runs down to her soul like a shiny diamond in the middle of rough coal. And everytime she walks by, everyone would be charmed by her, including one poor boy. And despite everyone thinking that the beautiful girl would never look his way, she did. And then, one night in July under the Kentucky sky, the boy won her heart.
The song, unlike other Loretta Lynn songs, was only recorded in two sessions which definitely helped in creating the fresh vibe of the song that would last for a long time.
Sadly, Loretta Lynn’s “Van Lear Rose” and the rest of the album have been pulled from download and streaming services just like Spotify. Interscope Records and The Universal Music Group still haven’t released any statements as to why, so this still remains a mystery. But thanks to fans, we can still listen to the song on YouTube. Check the video below.