This haunting little record went on to become Parton's most covered song. Not bad for a humble tale of a woman simply begging another not to take her man.
One of the reason it works is that it's recorded in a minor key, which is still a rarity for country songs. The instantly recognizable guitar hook played with solemn urgency practically drips with sorrow, setting up Parton to deliver a performance wrought with tension and fear. She's begging him not to take her man, but everything about the record and her performance suggest she's already lost him and she knows it.
“Jolene” was the first of a string of five #1 singles for Parton, and it was also her only solo top ten hit in the United Kingdom. Other artists have also had success with the song, most notably Olivia Newton-John, who spent three weeks at #1 atop the Japanese pop chart with her version, and the White Stripes, who had a successful live version that was a major rock hit in many markets.
Written by Dolly Parton
Next: I Will Always Love You (1974)
Previous: If Teardrops Were Pennies (with Porter Wagoner)