Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, “Here You Come Again”

“Here You Come Again”

Peak: Country #1 (5 weeks) | Pop #3 | AC #2

Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

“I’m not leaving country. I’m taking it with me.”

With those famous words, Dolly Parton declared both her continued loyalty to country music and her refusal to abide by its limits. Her first shot at pop fell short, and rather than rely on her own pen, she turned to experienced pop songwriters to secure her a place in the upper echelon of the Hot 100.

It worked. “Here You Come Again” was the vehicle that brought international celebrity to Dolly Parton, exposing her to a wider audience that would know her for her signature figure as much as her singing talent, and would remain mostly unaware of her songwriting prowess until Whitney Houston covered “I Will Always Love You” fifteen years afterward.

“Here You Come Again” is a great pop record. No qualifications needed. But it is worth noting that Parton insisted on the gorgeous steel guitar that gives the track so much of its warmth. She wanted something to point to when country purists complained that the song had no business on country radio, but the contrast between steel and piano beautifully complemented her sweet country voice being alongside pop instrumentation.

There’s a timelessness to “Here You Come Again” that makes the song still sound fresh today. It still ranks as her biggest country hit, and trails only “9 to 5” and “Islands in the Stream” on the list of her biggest pop hits.  There are going to be some very low moments in between those hits and this one, but for now, revel in the fact that the lady who once sang “Mule Skinner Blues” could fit in so comfortably with the Bee Gees and Rod Stewart on the hit parade.

Grade: A

Next: It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right/Two Doors Down

Previous: Light of a Clear Blue Morning

11 Comments

  1. Love this song! One of my all time favorites from Dolly. I actually love a lot of her more contemporary songs from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

  2. I think it should be said that the mid-1970s rock audience became aware of Dolly’s songwriting prowess when “I Will Always Love You” was covered in 1975 by Dolly’s future Trio pal Linda Ronstadt on her album Prisoner In Disguise as a California country-rock ballad, although it is a fact that tends to be overshadowed by Whitney Houston’s cover of it. Indeed, it was at least in part due to her befriending of both Linda and Emmylou Harris, who were much more left-of-center musically, that Dolly sought out the kind of “street credibility” she might not otherwise have received had she stayed musically in Nashville.

    That said, however, “Here You Come Again” was a great record all around. and, unlike so much of what we’ve got today, it was neither a blatant abandonment of her own genre nor a naked appeal to a pop audience that hadn’t really heard too much of her before. Dolly may have been known for driving certain people in Nashville absolutely bananas with her ambitions, but a lot of artists are like that.

  3. Dolly Parton was asked about the Emmylou/Linda thing in 1977:

    Q: How much influence were Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris in encouraging you to branch out?

    A: I don’t think any. I admire them, and I love them as friends, and I respect their music, and I think it’s pretty well mutual. I mean, they were into my music before I ever met either one of them. And I think they’re super. But, you see, that was what I was trying to tell you before – I’m not easily influenced by people.

    Q: I asked you because that’s a big theory of people’s – that Linda and Emmylou’s success in the larger arena, so to speak, inspired you to expand your boundaries.

    A: I think they have inspired me in many ways. They have made me feel that I should take great pride in the things I do. I mean, not that they are the only ones, but their friendship and the fact that they enjoy my music is great. But you see, what I’m doing is the things I’ve wanted to do ever since I came to Nashville. I’ve wanted to be everything I could be ever since I got here. You just have to take it a step at a time. I know one thing. I know that Emmylou and Linda have been great at promotin’ me. They have done for me, as far as their followin’, sayin’ nice things and talking me up to their audiences. I’m sure they’ve won me a lot of fans that would not have been aware of me otherwise. They’ve done that – and they’ve done my songs – for a long, long time. Money can’t buy things like that. That’s a great compliment. But as far as any of them ever saying, “You ought to do this” or “You should do that,” they never said that.

    Fun fact: Kevin Costner knew “I Will Always Love You” from the Linda album, and that’s the version he used when he suggested to Whitney Houston that she use the song in the Bodyguard. When Parton heard about it, she hustled to get them her version of the song because Ronstadt cut out the third verse when she recorded it.

    It’s hard to imagine Dolly Parton’s songwriting being a cool secret for those in the know, but it was back then. Ronstadt was among a few artists who covered Parton’s work before the big pop crossover:

    Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra did a creepy version of “Down From Dover” in 1972:

    Goldie Hawn recorded “My Blue Tears” in 1972:

    Maria Muldaur recorded “My Tennessee Mountain Home” in 1973:

    R&B singer Margie Joseph covered “Touch Your Woman” in 1974:

    Olivia Newton-John had an international hit with “Jolene” in 1976, which ended up her biggest hit ever in Japan:

    R&B star Kellee Patterson did “Jolene” that year, too:

  4. I will always favor Dolly’s more country records but there is no denying this is a great record. It would have been a shame if Dolly had not crossed over. This way we get 2 great artists for the price of one.

  5. Alone with ‘But You Know I Love You’, this is my favorite Dolly song not written by Dolly. It is addictive.

    When it was originally recorded, the song did not contain a steel guitar. Dolly was terrified that this would confirm the suspicions that she was going pop or going Hollywood. She begged producer Gary Klein to add steel guitars to the song, which he did. The rest is history. 5 weeks at #1 on the country chart and top 5 on the pop chart.

    Responding to Kevin’s post about ‘I Will Always Love You’, I was amazed at the number of people who had never heard Dolly’s version of the song when Whitney Houston’s version was released. Everyone was going nuts of Houston’s song and I kept saying I liked Dolly’s version better. They looked at me like ‘what? what do you mean Dolly’s version?’. I said ‘Dolly wrote the song and recorded it years ago.’ They had no idea. And I grew up in Texas!!!!

  6. I was heavily into country music by the end of 1992, but I heard “I Will Always Love You” first as a Whitney Houston song. A bit later, I heard the 1982 version of Parton’s, which I wasn’t crazy about. Finally heard the original recording when I bought a vinyl copy of The Best of Dolly Parton somewhere.

    So it’s country music heresy, but I prefer Houston’s version. It can still give me chills.

  7. Both versions are good of course. I think Dolly’s version is best. People tend to forget in Houston’s version that it is a sad goodbye song. Dolly sings it based all on the heartfelt lyrics. Simply stunning. I have enjoyed many versions though.

  8. Love this review – it articulates my reasons for loving this song far more than I ever could. It’s a really great example of how something special can be creating by incorporating the best elements of both country and pop, and I love how the steel guitar genuinely complements it instead of just being a grasp at country credibility.

  9. Houston’s “IWALY” is more impressive than expressive. There is so much oversinging on it, as opposed to delivering it how people actually feel and react.

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