Retro Single Review: Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark”

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July 16, 2011

1968 | Peak: #51

“I write a lot of sad songs.  Some of them are just plum pitiful.” – Dolly Parton

The B-side of Porter & Dolly’s two-sided hit only made it to #51, but Wagoner noted many times that it was the most requested song of theirs when they were out on the road.

It’s the first charting hit of theirs that falls into the maudlin tragedies category, a type of song that they were known for as solo artists, too.

As maudlin goes, this falls somewhere on the spectrum between the elegance of  “Down From Dover”  to the mind-boggingly mawkish “Me and Little Andy”, if we use Parton’s work to measure it against.  If we go the Wagoner route, it’s somewhere between “The Carroll County Accident” and “The Rubber Room.” In both cases, it’s a heck of a lot closer to the latter extreme.

For Wagoner & Parton together, however, this tale of a young girl who is afraid of the dark is only subtle when measured against the jawdroppingly tasteless “I Get Lonesome By Myself” and “The Party.”

Here’s the premise:  Jeannie is afraid of the dark.  She sleeps with mommy and daddy and has a panic attack when she goes to the cemetery to place flowers on old family graves, knowing that it’s awfully dark down there.

Connoisseurs of country songs like this know there’s only one logical way for this song to end.  She triumphs over her fears and grows into a confident young woman.  She gets killed off in the third act and the parents place an eternal flame on her grave.

It’s a wonder to behold.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: C

Listen: Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark

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  1. GregNo Gravatar says:

    I’m loving the retro single reviews. I’m learning so many new old songs.

    I had never heard of this song but listening to it, I found to be captivated in the story. I was let down half way through the song when Porter started singing because I believe they could have more poetically sang why she has passed away.

    I’m loving listening to these old songs (I was never introduced to them by my family so this site is doing a bang up job on brushing me up on earlier country singles) and love how so many of these songs sound original and unique. This song is such a different story line, one that you would never hear on today’s country radio.

    Keep up the great work guys and girls!

  2. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    Well put. This song has that same “Don’t Cry Joni” effect that leaves me feeling like I should go brush my teeth.

  3. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    This one was new to me…a wonder to behold indeed. It’s so dark and campy at the same time, like so many other tragic but fascinating country songs from that period.

    Great job so far with these retro reviews, they’ve been a real treat to read and great reminders or introductions to these older singles.

  4. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I never cared too much for this one. Too obvious in its attempts to pull at the heartstrings.

  5. Tom PNo Gravatar says:

    Dolly did a much better job at writing sad songs for her solo records than the duets with Porter. That being said it’s still a very good and interesting (and yes predictable) song. Not Dolly’s writing at her best but still SO much better than what we are currenty getting in country music. I would give this a “B”.

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