“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
Listen: Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark