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.
Dolly Parton Week kicks off today with the first of two Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists entries. Mine will follow later in the week, along with Classic Country Singles, Retro Album Reviews, Six Packs, and an Ultimate Buyer’s Guide, all focusing on the legendary Hall of Famer. – Kevin
There really isn’t anything that Dolly Parton can’t do. She has a voice like an angel, but is also capable of showboating with the best of them. She plays several instruments, has written more than her share of classic songs, is an actor, owns a popular amusement park and, most importantly, is involved in many philanthropic efforts.
Starting with traditional annual viewings of A Smokey Mountain Christmas on the Disney Channel, Dolly Parton is one of those people that I loved before I even knew what music genres were, let alone country music in particular. So, while I was nervous about whittling down my favorite Dolly songs to a mere 25, I couldn’t resist the chance to participate in Dolly Parton week at Country Universe.
While this is a list of my favorite Dolly songs, I fully realize that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of her deep catalog with the songs that I’ve chosen.
“Joshua” Joshua, 1971
This is a strange little story, but Dolly proves that she’s a great storyteller. There’s talking, singing and even a little yodeling. What more can you ask for in a song?
“Jolene” Jolene, 1974
While it’s true that whenever I think of this song, I am reminded of The White Stripes’ intensely insane version that makes Parton’s version sound considerably tame, “Jolene” is still one of my favorite Dolly songs. She sings with her own quiet intensity that makes us appropriately feel for the jilted woman.
“Shinola” Backwoods Barbie, 2008
I just think this song is fun. She’s calling this guy out on all of his crap and I suspect that nobody can give a dressing down quite as effectively as Dolly can.
“More Where That Came From” Slow Dancing With The Moon, 1993
I was actually aware of this song before and liked it despite it being featured on recent Target commercials. She’s trying to convince her experienced man that she’s the one with whom he should settle down. After she gives him a list of things she can do to keep him happy, one can only imagine what she means by “There’s more where that came from.”
“Cry, Cry, Darlin’” Sing The Songs Of Bill Monroe, 2002
For the record, this tribute album to Bill Monroe, spearheaded by Ricky Skaggs, is no doubt worth purchasing. Dolly’s contribution is one of the clear highlights on an all around stellar record.