100 Greatest Women, #1: Dolly Parton

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition


Dolly Parton

2008 Edition: #1 (No Change)

She emerged from poverty in the Smoky Mountains, the first of her family to graduate high school. She dreamed of being a country music singer, but it was her songwriting that got her in the door. Over the course of more than fifty years, she has successfully navigated countless styles of country music, ranging from bluegrass to Hollywood pop-country, remaining a popular and relevant recording artist through the countless sea changes that occurred in the industry around her.

Dolly Parton’s story begins in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Tennessee, where she was the fourth of twelve children. She began writing songs before she had begun formal schooling, and would physically force her younger siblings to watch her performances. Her mother taught her the old mountain songs, with a penchant for those with tragic undertones. This was a big influence on Parton’s writing, particularly in the first decade of her recording career.

Her uncle, Bill Owens, was an early believer in her talent, and took ten year old Dolly to Knoxville to meet Cas Walker, owner a successful chain of grocery stores. He had a radio and television show that promoted the stores, and he had Parton sing jingles and entertain. She earned twenty dollars a week, and kept the gig while finishing her education.

When she was thirteen, Owens finagled studio time for Dolly in Louisiana, where she cut some sides for Goldband Records. She traveled with Owens to Nashville, with her recording of “Puppy Love” in tow, and hung around the back door of the Opry until she could meet Johnny Cash. She begged him to let her on the Opry, and he explained that to do so, another performer would have to give up their spot. Jimmy C. Newman graciously volunteered, and Cash introduced the teenager. She was only supposed to do one song, but she earned three encores.

Parton and Owens returned to Nashville frequently, and Parton’s songwriting caught the attention of Buddy Killen, who signed her briefly to a publishing contract. Mercury Records issued a single of Dolly singing one of her songs, “(It May Not Kill Me) But it’s Sure Gonna Hurt.” She also recorded a teenybopper record, “Don’t Drop Out,” which went nowhere. After becoming the first member of her family to graduate high school, Parton moved to Nashville the very next day.

She met her future husband at a laundromat the same day she arrived in town, but he was headed into the army. She wed Carl Dean two years later, when he returned from the service, and they’ve been together ever since. While she aspired to be a country singer, it was her songwriting that first earned her success on Music Row. She was signed to a writer’s deal with Combine Music, and she penned singles by Skeeter Davis (“Fuel to the Flame”) and Hank Williams Jr. (“I’m in No Condition”). When Bill Phillips took her song “Put it Off Until Tomorrow” to #6, she earned a record deal of her own, signing with Monument.

Her first single, the clever Curly Putman song “Dumb Blonde,” went to #24, and she penned her next hit, the top twenty “Something Fishy.” Her debut set was dubbed Hello, I’m Dolly, and Monument released it in 1967. When Porter Wagoner needed a female singer to replace Norma Jean on his television and touring show, he chose Dolly, and was instrumental in having her switch from Monument to RCA Records.

Over the next few years, she would have many big hit duets with Wagoner, starting right away with their first single, “The Last Thing on My Mind,” at the end of 1967. Parton penned quite a few of them, including “Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark,” “Yours Love,” “Tomorrow is Forever,” and “Lost Forever in Your Kiss.” Parton won her first industry awards with Porter, as the CMA named them Vocal Group in 1968, and then Vocal Duo in 1970 and 1971.

But Parton was also pursuing her solo career, and it was on her solo records that she was fully blossoming as a writer who did not mince words or shy away from uncomfortable subjects. Her first RCA single, “Just Because I’m a Woman,” was from the perspective of a woman just married, and her new husband is angry that she is not a virgin. She makes clear, “I’ve made my mistakes, but listen and understand. My mistakes are no worse than yours just because I’m a woman. So when you look at me, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Just think of all the shame you might have brought somebody else.”

A full two years before Loretta Lynn’s celebrated “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Parton documented the poverty she grew up in on her 1968 single, “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad).” She was a mountain girl turned prostitute on her classic “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy.” On her best early track, “Down From Dover,” she was an outcast for getting pregnant. Wagoner insisted the song was too depressing to be a single, so he pushed RCA to release “Daddy, Come and Get Me” instead, even though that song had a girl institutionalized by her roving husband.

Her first major solo hit ended up being a cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Mule Skinner Blues”, but she followed it up in 1971 with her self-penned hit, “Joshua”, which was her first #1 single. Later that year, she released her signature ballad, “Coat of Many Colors”, which poetically recounted a childhood memory of her mother sewing a coat from her out of donated rags. It remains Parton’s favorite song she’s ever written.

Over the next few years, Parton was a stunningly prolific writer, penning several songs which went on to become country classics, like “Jolene,” “The Bargain Store,” “Love is Like a Butterfly,” “The Seeker” and “”Please Don’t Stop Loving Me.” That last song became her only #1 hit with Porter Wagoner, and when she left his show after seven years, she penned the bittersweet “I Will Always Love You,” which would become her most well-known composition.

Parton’s success as a writer was not limited to her solo and duet hits. Linda Ronstadt was the first to cover “I Will Always Love You,” including it on her Prisoner in Disguise album in 1975. Olivia Newton-John topped the pop charts in several countries with her cover of “Jolene.” Merle Haggard had a #1 hit with Parton’s “Kentucky Gambler” in early 1975, and over the next few years, Emmylou Harris would score with “To Daddy” and Waylon Jennings with “Waltz Me to Heaven,” while Parton herself racked up one self-written hit after another.

Parton was named CMA’s Female Vocalist in 1975 and 1976, but was frustrated by the small scale of her success. “Jolene” had been her biggest song up until that point, and the single had sold 60,000 copies. She looked over to the pop chart and saw that big hits over there sold in the hundreds of thousands. She saw no reason why she should be held back from that. She hooked up with an L.A. manager and booking company, and began recording more pop-flavored material.

Her personality was a perfect fit for The Tonight Show, where she provided Johnny Carson with several classic moments and quite a bit of material, as his jokes about her ample bosom became staples of the show. Her first crossover album, New Harvest…First Gathering got the ball rolling, with the stunning gospel ballad “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” as the hit single from the set. But Parton’s popularity exploded with her next album, Here You Come Again.

The title track was written by pop songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Well, and it not only topped the country chart for five weeks, it crossed over to pop, selling a million copies in the process. The album of the same name went platinum and won Parton her first Grammy. She wrote the album’s other two big hits, “It’s all Wrong, But it’s all Right” and “Two Doors Down,” both written on the same night during a caffeine-induced writing binge.

Before the album broke through on such a big scale, Parton had been on the receiving end of a storm of criticism for allegedly leaving country music, to which she replied, “I’m not leaving country music. I’m taking it with me.” By 1978, the country music industry was back on her side, naming her Entertainer of the Year at both the ACMs and the CMAs. Her next three albums were hits at both country and pop radio, and Parton had her own short-lived variety show.

Then a chance meeting on a plane with Jane Fonda led to her first movie role, playing Doralee in 9 to 5. The movie was a smash, and led to one of her biggest singles as well. Parton was bored on the movie set, so she wrote “9 to 5” to the beat of her clicking fingernails. Not only did the song top the country charts, it became her first #1 pop hit, winning her two Grammys and earning her first Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

Parton’s success continued unabated, with her big hits over the next few years including a re-recording of “I Will Always Love You” for her second film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Parton became the first country artist in history to go to #1 with different versions of the same song. Her 1983 duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream,” was another massive hit, selling more than two million copies and topping the pop and country singles charts.

By the time she left RCA in 1985, she’d enjoyed twenty #1 hits. She was frustrated, though, with the label’s lack of promotion and jumped ship for Columbia Records. Her first release for the label, Rainbow, sank quietly, but for good reason. It was completely overshadowed by the success of Trio, her collaboration with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt that same year. The album sold platinum and won them a slew of awards. Parton sang lead on one of the set’s four big hits, with “Wildflowers” being her most traditional hit in ages.

Parton made a conscious effort to record material with less of a pop flavor, and the result was a trio of top-selling albums for Sony, White Limozeen, Eagle When She Flies and Slow Dancing With the Moon, the latter two being her first platinum solo albums since the late seventies. She continued to have radio hits, including three #1 singles. She also starred in network variety show and in several more films on the big and small screen, the most famous being her supporting role in Steel Magnolias.

Parton’s songwriting received renewed attention when Whitney Houston turned “I Will Always Love You” into an international pop smash, resulting in Parton being honored with BMI’s Most Performed Song of the Year award. Despite the pop success, Parton was turning increasingly to her roots. She found great success with Honky Tonk Angels, an album recorded with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, and she recorded a collection of mountain songs on Heartsongs: Live From Home.

In 1999, Parton left the major labels behind and signed with Sugar Hill. She’d heard that bluegrass fans had been polled regarding which artist they’d most want to see record a bluegrass album, and she was on the top of the list. The result was The Grass is Blue, which won her a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album and was named Album of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

That fall, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, one of the youngest living inductees in history. She shifted from bluegrass to mountain soul on her 2001 set Little Sparrow, which won her another Grammy for her rendition of Collective Soul’s “Shine.” To promote her next set, Halos and Horns, Parton toured for the first time in more than a decade, playing to sold-out crowds everywhere she went.  She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 2006, her songwriting brought her another Oscar nomination, for her theme song to the movie Transamerica, “Travelin’ Thru.” Parton’s songs were used on country night during this year’s season of American Idol, where Parton served as a guest mentor. She was an honoree at the the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2006, where Alison Krauss and Shania Twain were among the women chosen to perform cuts from her legendary catalog.

Her 2008 album, Backwoods Barbie, was her highest-charting since her 1991 chart-topping set Eagle When She Flies. The title cut is one of several songs she wrote for the Broadway production of 9 to 5, which debuted on Broadway in 2009 and earned Parton her first Tony Awards nomination for Best Original Score. In 2018, the show makes its debut on the West End in London.

Parton’s international fame continued to pay dividends during this time, as she sold out the O2 Arena in London in 2008. Her targeting of the the U.K. market in particular for her album Blue Smoke, released earlier overseas than in the United States, led to it being one of England’s top-selling albums in 2014.  That same year, Parton headlined the Glastonbury Festival, playing to over 180,000 audience members.

She followed this success overseas with a return to touring in North America, with her longest run of shows in decades proving to be a major financial success. The Pure & Simple Tour supported the album of the same name, which became her first #1 country album in 25 years when released in 2016.  She collaborated with Pentatonix on a cover of “Jolene,” which earned he another Grammy in 2017.  Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” was used as part of the “Forever Country” medley created in honor of the 50th Annual CMA Awards, and she provided the closing vocals for the collaborative track. It went to #1 on the country singles chart and netted Parton her second ACM for Music Video of the Year.

Parton’s song catalog also became the catalyst for a highly successful series of television movies, first on NBC and later on Netflix. Coat of Many Colors was a ratings smash, as was its holiday-themed sequel, Christmas of Many Colors, the latter of which earned an Emmy Awards nomination.  For Netflix, an eight part series is in the works based on Parton’s personal story as well as songs she’s written over the years.  Her newest project is also connected to the streaming site, as she is preparing the soundtrack release for Dumplin’, a comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, for which she co-wrote six tracks.  She collaborated with Sia on a remake of her 1971 track “Here I am,” which was released as the lead single and gave Parton another top forty country hit, making her the first country artist to have a top forty hit for six consecutive decades.

Over the course of country music history, there have been women who have made their name through their songwriting talents, like Cindy Walker and Matraca Berg. There have been women who have connected with roots and bluegrass music, like Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent. There have been women who have risen to great success from their mountain backgrounds, like Loretta Lynn and Patty Loveless. There have been women who have become pop phenomenons, like Shania Twain and Anne Murray. There have been women who have become multimedia stars of stage and screen, like Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell.

But there has never been a woman who has done all of the above, and done it well, like Dolly Parton has. The scale and scope of Parton’s success is completely unprecedented in country music, and given the unique combination of her talents and her experiences, may not be replicable. She represents both the rich heritage of and the limitless possibilities for women in country music, with her contributions to American popular culture continuing unabated in her sixth decade on the public stage.

Country music can lay claim to many tremendous female artists, a history that has only grown richer with talent over the past ten years.  Out of all of them, Dolly Parton is still the greatest.

Essential Singles

  • The Last Thing On My Mind (with Porter Wagoner), 1967
  • Just Because I’m a Woman, 1968
  • My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy, 1969
  • Coat of Many Colors, 1971
  • My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973
  • Jolene, 1973
  • I Will Always Love You, 1974
  • The Bargain Store, 1975
  • Light of a Clear Blue Morning, 1977
  • Here You Come Again, 1977
  • It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right, 1978
  • 9 to 5, 1980
  • But You Know I Love You, 1981
  • Islands in the Stream (with Kenny Rogers), 1983
  • Tennessee Homesick Blues, 1984
  • Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That, 1989
  • Rockin’ Years (with Ricky Van Shelton), 1991
  • Shine, 2001

Essential Albums

  • Joshua, 1971
  • Coat of Many Colors, 1971
  • My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973
  • Jolene, 1974
  • New Harvest…First Gathering, 1977
  • Here You Come Again, 1977
  • 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs, 1980
  • Trio (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt), 1987
  • Honky Tonk Angels (with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette), 1993
  • The Grass is Blue, 1999
  • Little Sparrow, 2001
  • Blue Smoke, 2014

Industry Awards

  • Academy of Country Music Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • Trio (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt), 1988
    • Cliffe Stone Pioneer Award, 2007
    • Entertainer of the Year, 1978
    • Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award, 2018
    • Jim Reeves International Award, 2009
    • Music Video of the Year
      • When I Get Where I’m Going (with Brad Paisley), 2006
      • Forever Country, 2018
    • Single of the Year
      • Islands in the Stream (with Kenny Rogers), 1984
    • Top Female Vocalist, 1981
    • Top Vocal Duet/Duo
      • Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, 1984
    • Top Vocal Group
      • Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, 1971
    • Vocal Event of the Year
      • When I Get Where I’m Going (with Brad Paisley), 2006
  • British Country Music Awards
    • Female Vocalist of the Year, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
    • International Independent Artist, 2000
  • Canadian Country Music Association Awards
    • Top Selling Album
      • Once Upon a Christmas (with Kenny Rogers), 1985
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • Entertainer of the Year, 1978
    • Female Vocalist of the Year, 1975, 1976
    • Musical/Vocal Event of the Year
      • Trio (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt), 1988
      • I Will Always Love You (with Vince Gill), 1996
      • When I Get Where I’m Going (with Brad Paisley), 2006
    • Vocal Duo of the Year
      • Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, 1970, 1971
    • Vocal Group of the Year
      • Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, 1968
    • Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
  • Country Music Hall of Fame, 1999
  • Gospel Music Hall of Fame, 2009
  • Grammy Awards
    • Best Bluegrass Album
      • The Grass is Blue, 2001
    • Best Country Collaboration With Vocals
      • After the Gold Rush (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt), 2000
    • Best Country Song
      • 9 to 5, 1982
    • Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group
      • Trio (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt), 1988
      • Jolene (with Pentatonix), 2017
    • Best Female Country Vocal Performance
      • Here You Come Again, 1979
      • 9 to 5, 1982
      • Shine, 2002
    • Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011
  • International Bluegrass Music Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • The Grass is Blue, 2000
    • Recorded Event of the Year
      • Clinch Mountain Sweethearts (with Ralph Stanley), 2002
  • Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2001

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Previous: #2. Loretta Lynn


  1. I recommend a fan book – Pilgrimage to Dollywood.

    Written by Dr. Helen Morales who is Professor of Hellenic Studies (Latin and Ancient Greek) at the University of California -Santa Barbara.

  2. I knew it. Wonder how much of this list won’t change should the 15th/20th Anniversary Edition happen. Betcha the top 3 will forever be the same every time.

    Anyhoo, I must get this off my chest: I’m no Dolly fan. I understand her impact, and she has written some fine songs (“Jolene”, for example), but she’s never been somebody I actively cared for.

    One last thing to say: Well, the list has been quite a ride! As I’ve said back in the introduction, back when Barbara Mandrell was pretty much all the country I cared about, the original countdown really opened my mind up to a ton of great women – some of which are among my favorite artists of any genre – so it’s nice to see this redone. Hopefully we’ll get a redone 100 Greatest Men over 2021-24 (that’s how long that list took, after all!). Thanks for everything!

  3. How can anyone argue with this. She is simply the best. Just when you think she is done, she always surprises with another come back of sorts. My dream project for a Dolly CD would be to have a full album with just Dolly and a guitar.

  4. Was number one even obvious? Dolly is the greatest of all time for women in country music. She is the most important woman in the history of country music not named Kitty Wells. She influenced every woman that came after her. Dolly’s resume speaks for itself. She have a great voice and IMO, she is the greatest songwriter for women in country music (well, you can make a argument for Loretta as well). Dolly has classic albums under her belt. Coat Of Many Colors and My Tennessee Mountain Home are enough said. Plus, her collaboration albums, Trio and Honky Tonk Angels was amazing as well. Dolly work in the 21st century was solid as well (I personally feel her 2000’s work gets a little underrated). Little Sparrow is a solid project and Blue Smoke was great. Dolly is the standard bearer for every woman that has ever step foot in country music. Dolly help country music advance to the masses and welcome everyone in for the ride. You guys did a amazing job with this countdown. I got discover/rediscover some artists off this list. Y’ll ever consider doing a honorable mention list of the women who just miss the cut?

  5. I don’t think it’s too much of a shock to see Dolly at #1 once again. She is arguably the most flamboyant artist the country music genre has ever had, female or otherwise; and some of what she has done can more or less be described as controversial: the breaking away from Porter Wagoner; her bid for crossover stardom at a time when Nashville was apoplectic over such a thing in the 1970s. She always has done things her own way; and back in those times, women were still urged to be somewhat “subservient” to men. Dolly changed all that.

    And when you think about it, even Trio was kind of a controversial album, because she, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris made it outside the purview of the Nashville system, made it as traditional as all-get-out at a time when Music Row was awash in 80s pop crossover stuff, and it became a huge hit–but one that the Nashville potentates didn’t initially like. As George Massenburg, who produced the album said: “It hit Nashville like a bomb; they loathed it.”

    That, however, is Dolly in a nutshell in a lot of ways, take her, or leave her.

  6. It’s very interesting, that since she has done so much different stuff and has such a unique look and personality that what is often most overlooked is the quality of her songs. Regardless of what genre she is currently doing she is always able to somehow get a least one masterpiece. For traditional country you have Coat, Jolene, Tennessee Mountain Home, etc. For pop you don’t get much better than 9 to 5 or Islands. As her chart run stated to wind down she still turned out masterpieces in Trio, Grass is Blue, etc. While her last couple of albums have not been among her best they are still sprinkled with some excellent songs and I would bet there will be more to come.

  7. Well deserved even if I’m not a big fan. I disliked her pop stuff especially with Kenny Rogers. Islands in the Stream? Ugh! Her songwriting is impressive though.

    One interesting Dolly cover duet if you have heard it is “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” that she does on a Ladysmith Black Mambazo release.

  8. I preferred her pop stuff. Loved her Christmas album w KR.

    Great job even though my tastes are very different. Makes me look forward to the 100 Greatest Men.

  9. There is no woman on this list that can even compete with the incomparable Dolly Rebecca Parton. She is and will always be the Greatest Female County Artist of all time…hands down!

  10. PCasonova – as a songwriter (only) I would have Loretta Lynn, Marijohn Wilkin, Cindy Walker and Felice Bryant above Dolly, although she clearly belongs among the elite female songwriters along with Matraca Berg, Donna Ulisse, Dixie Hall and several of the more modern writers.

  11. @ Paul W Dennis, I’m only know a little about Cindy, Felice and Donna’s music to formulate a accurate opinion on where to ranking their songwriting among others (the other ones beside, Matraca I haven’t listen to thoroughly). I was always engage in Dolly’s writing due the versatility she have. As I mention before, I wouldn’t disagree if people rated Loretta over Dolly in songwriting because Loretta’s writing is so in depth in detail. But, I’ll take your word on it. I discover country music a little late (due to me being a huge hip hop and rock fan), but I’m still discovering more about the history of country music as time passes on and this countdown is making my discovery more easier.

  12. We are breathing rarefied air once we start talking about these levels of talent and impact. But for me, Parton is unquestionably the greatest female songwriter in country music history and nobody else comes particularly close. The depth and the breadth of her songwriting catalog is astounding. She could’ve stopped writing forty years ago and I’d still be inclined to call her the greatest ever.

    I do wonder what would have been different if Loretta Lynn hadn’t deliberately stopped recording self-penned material for a long time because of that bad contract she signed.

    But Parton is so prolific and multi-faceted, able to write mountain songs and pure pop songs and everything in between. Doing a deep dive into covers of her songs that exist in so many different genres, languages, and eras is something that can only be done with her work.

    Some random examples that illustrate the last point:

  13. @Kevin. Thanks for list of some of the covers of Dolly songs. I agree she is easily the greatest female songwriter ever in county. Loretta is spectacular but the range of her material is somewhat limited compared to Dolly. I like Dolly’s story songs the best, but no doubt she can write in any category and do it all very well.

  14. I think if you took a closer look at the catalogue of Felice Bryant you would find that Dolly’s catalogue of covers pales in comparison:

    “Raining In My Heart” – Buddy Holly
    “Rocky Top” – The Osborne Brothers
    “Bye Bye, Love” – Ray Charles (1962)
    “Come Live with Me” – Roy Clark
    “Raining in My Heart” – Robert Wyatt
    “She Wears My Ring” – Solomon King
    “She Wears My Ring” – Jimmy Sweeney
    “Have a Good Time” – Sue Thompson
    “Love Hurts” – Roy Orbison
    “Sugar Beet” – Moon Mullican
    “Wedding of the Bugs” – Moon Mullican
    “Blue Boy” – Jim Reeves
    “Bella Belinda” – Donn Reynolds
    “I’m Gonna Slip You Offa My Mind” – Tommy Zang
    “Midnight” – Red Foley
    “Some Sweet Day” – Fairport Convention
    “Take a Message to Mary” – Bob Dylan
    “Rocky Top” – Dillard & Clarke
    “Love Hurts” – Nazareth
    “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” – David Frizzell and Shelly West
    “We Could” – Little Jimmy Dickens

    This doesn’t even begin to cover the many multi-chart hits scored by the Everly Brothers on her material. I don’t know how many times her catalogue of songs have been covered but I would not be surprised if a peek at the royalty statements would show over a thousand different artists recorded her songs.

    Don’t get me wrong I really like Dolly’s early recordings (I have all of them as well as the magnificent Bear Family box of Porter & Dolly) and her grassier stuff as well. With some of the pop/schock stuff she penned I still cringe at when I hear it.

  15. I agree that F.Bryant’s catalog is very impressive. I still prefer Dollys work but it’s really irrelevant. Both are extremely talented writers. Sometimes once you get it narrowed down to the top 5, then it becomes based on individual taste. I do think there will always be people who will remain upset that Dolly crossed over. Though I agree that Dolly is a much better songwriter at country than pop I still believe she has penned great pop songs. Production aside – Listen to the lyrics of Two Doors Down and 9 to 5 as examples.

  16. I shared the variety of covers to demonstrate just how versatile her catalog is, but Dolly’s own recordings are usually the best versions of the songs she’s written. I don’t think her songwriting quality ever dipped. She just went with more of a pop production for a few years in the middle of her career. “I Will Always Love You” was a country song through and through in 1974, a bit less so in 1982. Then Whitney Houston turned it into a pop standard, with what I still believe is the definitive version of that song, much as I love Dolly’s 1974 original.

  17. In this house, we do not disparage the production on “9 to 5!” For my money, that is the definitive example of why “pop-country” shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand, as it’s a note-perfect example of both halves of that moniker.

    Sturgill Simpson puts a few horns on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and is hailed as an innovator and every single Americana album in 2018 is slathered in brass, while Dolly’s looking back at her calendar from 38 years ago…

  18. Frankly I listen to “9 to 5” and I don’t hear country music whatsoever. Which is fine with me, it’s not types of music I go for just good music and “9 to 5” is GREAT music. I honestly can’t pick anything from the song or production that says country. Sure Dolly Parton is country, but I wouldn’t call her vocal performance on this particular song country either. Too often the performer signifies the genre when it isn’t always the case. PS. “9 to 5” spent two weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 while only 1 week on the country chart. It also charted 12 weeks longer on the hot 100 compared to the country billboard chart.

  19. @Kevin. I actually agree. Lyric wise, 8 to 5 is much better for working folks. I don’t know of any song in any genre that explains the day to day better. On In the Good Old Day. I love that too but go back and forth on weather I prefer her bluegrass original or the 1873 remake. Depends on my mood. All of that being said, I absolutely consider Haggard and Loretta songwriting great too.

  20. @Jonathan. For the definitive pop-country song, I’ll take “Rose Garden”. I think it is also a little more country sounding than 9 to 5. I never was a big fan of 9 to 5.

  21. @Ron

    You won’t get me to disparage “Rose Garden,” either. That’s a fine choice to exemplify pop-country, too!

    For me, “9 to 5” comes down to the combination of a brilliantly written working-class lament set to fiery church piano, and those are plenty to ground the song and single in country music. It skews more strongly into pop, sure, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in and of itself.

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