“The Pill” by Loretta Lynn
“The pill” referred to in the title of this song is in fact the birth control bill, which has been legal in the United States since 1960, as in for just 15 years before this track came out.
This was around the same time that family planning itself started to catch hold in America, so obviously it took quite a few years before the pill actually became popular or known to the masses. And such serves as the premise of this song, i.e. an exhausted single mother having now gotten hold of this convenient contraceptive.
Owing to this, whom the narrator is addressing in this piece is her baby daddy or daddies, depending on one’s perspective.
As depicted, the addressee is someone who has the tendency to carelessly impregnate the vocalist. In other words, he would knock Loretta up and leave her to deal with all of the responsibilities thereof, while he’s rather out somewhere, living that playa life. And this has not only happened to her once but rather a number of years in succession.
And no, just to clarify, this is not the case of a mother decrying her parental responsibilities. Instead, the point being made is that the vocalist feels it is unfair that her baby daddy is out having fun, while she’s forced to ‘stay at home’ and care for the family. In other words, the addressee totally does not respect the fact that parenting, in actuality, is a two-person job.
So now in the vocalist’s mind, “the pill” is the great equalizer. Or put more plainly, now she is not bound to end up pregnant every time she sleeps with someone.
And yes, sexual freedom is one of the factors that is causing her to celebrate. Or viewed from a different angle, the narrator is now confident that she is not going to be burdened with another childbirth in the near future, unless maybe she wants one, which obviously she doesn’t.
That freedom has empowered her to go out and party just as her baby daddy is doing, i.e. without care for consequence, in the manner of speaking. So it’s almost as if Loretta has been granted a second opportunity to live the single life and intends to take advantage of it to the fullest.
With all of that noted, it is also quite obvious that this piece is meant to be by and large comical. But one would have to imagine that in the very least, its purpose is to draw attention to the plight of single mothers, i.e. young women who find themselves bearing children for irresponsible and unsympathetic men.
Does this song promote birth control?
Not really. But that said, many people rather took “The Pill” as a straight-up advocacy for birth control.
But it’s like the old saying goes, don’t judge a man – or in this case a woman until you’ve walked a mile in her moccasins. And as of Loretta Lynn, she did in fact give birth to five children before reaching the age of 20. Beyond that, she also had a couple more a few years before this song was dropped in her early 30s.
And yes, Lynn he was married to the same man throughout, albeit one she was wed to at the tender age of 15 and was also, according to the songstress, way less than perfect. So no, Loretta herself may not technically know what it feels like to be a single mother who has given birth for an absentee father.
But her experiences were such that she was not only able to sympathize but also empathize with such individuals. And whether an intended effect or not, this track also proved instrumental in promoting the birth control pill itself.
By the time Loretta Lynn had passed away at the age of 90 in 2022, she had long since established herself as a country music legend.
Lynn’s discography dates all the way back to 1963. Her discography didn’t officially end until 2021, with the dropping of “Still Woman Enough”, which was the songstress’s 46th studio album.
That said, Loretta’s professional heyday was definitely during the 1970, when a few of her songs and albums proved chart toppers on Billboard’s US Country charts, as well as in Canada, where the Kentucky native was even more popular.
Facts about “The Pill”
“The Pill” was released through MCA Records on 27 January 1975 as part of “Back to the Country”, which holds the distinction of being Loretta Lynn’s 25th studio album.
“The Pill” reached number 1 on the RPM Country Tracks list up north, compared to peaking at number 5 on the Hot Country Singles charts stateside.
Whereas “The Pill” may not have been Lynn’s biggest hit, it definitely appears to be the most-controversial song in her catalog and one of the most eyebrow raising in the entire history of country music.
It has been noted that one of the reasons this song did not reach its full market potential is because it was banned by a number of radio stations. Indeed country music, even to this day, can perhaps be considered the most-conservative out of all major genres. And with that in mind, it has been further pointed out that even now, as of 2022, “The Pill”, “the most successful English-language song about birth control”, is still experiencing something like a de facto ban amongst radio stations.
But despite censors or what have you, this track nevertheless marks the highest Loretta Lynn reached on the US Hot 100 proper, where it peaked at number 70.
Besides Loretta (1932-2022), the other credited writers of this piece are T.D. Bayless, Lorene Allen and Don McHan. The song’s producer was the late Owen Bradley (1915-1998).