“Jolene” was Dolly Parton’s first hit single, back in 1973. According to NPR Music, the haunting song has been covered by more than 30 singers since its release. Today, it’s still causing quite a stir, and with good reason.
— Patrick OBrien (@obrienmedia) October 16, 2016
This song consists of 200 words, which makes it easy for almost anyone to sing. Parton had this to say about why she thinks so many people choose to play and sing “Jolene.”
“It’s a great chord progression — people love that ‘Jolene’ lick. It’s as much a part of the song almost as the song. And because it’s just the same word over and over, even a first-grader or a baby can sing, ‘Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene.’ It’s like, how hard can that be?”
The idea for the song came about because of two separate events in Dolly Parton’s life. The first one occurred in the late 1960s when the singer was signing autographs after her television show broadcast. She explains it like this.
“One night, I was on stage, and there was this beautiful little girl — she was probably 8 years old at the time. She had this beautiful red hair, this beautiful skin, these beautiful green eyes, and she was looking up at me, holding, you know, for an autograph. I said, ‘Well, you’re the prettiest little thing I ever saw. So what is your name?’ And she said, ‘Jolene.’ And I said, ‘Jolene. Jolene. Jolene. Jolene.’ I said, ‘That is pretty. That sounds like a song. I’m going to write a song about that.'”
The second event is the one that was instrumental in Parton’s choice for the theme of the song. A red-headed bank teller had a crush on her husband. Dolly magically turned the teller into her best friend and the rest is history.
The fictional Jolene is so popular because countless numbers of people can relate to feelings of inadequacy and not measuring up. This includes men and women alike.
I’m honored to be this year’s recipient of CMA’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award! https://t.co/raFd3iY1kE
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) October 4, 2016
In late September, “Jolene” was brought back to life by Pentatonix and Dolly herself. She teamed up with the award-winning acapella group and fans went absolutely wild. As of this writing, the following video has been viewed almost 13 million times. If you can’t get enough of the song, here’s a hint. Instead of clicking replay, over and over again, simply right-click on the video and select the loop option.
Just a quick FYI for all of you Pentatonix fans, “A Pentatonix Christmas” is coming October 21, 2016.
A few days ago, the next video made an astounding comeback. Uploaded in 2010, it now has millions of views as well. Listen to Dolly sing “Jolene” slowed down to 33rpm. If you’re in the habit of listening to music this way, you’ll probably appreciate the outcome.
If pop music happens to be more your style, you might enjoy the next version of “Jolene” the most. This rendition, featuring Dolly Parton and Katy Perry, took place at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Perry revealed her excitement in a tweet. She said, “My prayers have been answered. I shall remember though that I am but one sequin on this living legend’s costume!”
Dolly Parton is currently on tour, her biggest in 25 years. The legendary country singer is in the middle of promoting her newest album Pure & Simple. It features new songs as well as classics like “Jolene.” Visit Parton’s official website for additional tour information.
Which version of “Jolene” do you like best? These days, you certainly have plenty to choose from. Feel free to leave your comments below.
[Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC]