6 Essential Dolly Parton Songs (That Aren’t “Jolene”)

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Since its release in 1973, “Jolene” has been covered by everyone from Olivia Newton-John to The White Stripes and has well established its place in the American cultural zeitgeist. It is arguably Dolly Parton’s most acclaimed (and well-covered) song—a staple in televised singing competitions and karaoke bars to this day. (A close second is “I Will Always Love You,” which I personally prefer over the Whitney Houston version. Sorry, I guess.)

As the granddaughter of self-proclaimed hillbillies from Appalachia, I was indoctrinated into the cult of Dolly at an early age. Now, as an adult, I recognize her tenacity, sense of humor, and feminism as incredibly radical. Her discography covers everything from country folk songs about optimism in the face of hardship to pop ballads about modern working women, and her ability to craft a song with a fully developed plot is a tradition often forgotten in music today.

So, I present to you 6 essential Dolly Parton songs that aren’t “Jolene.”

1. My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy (1969)

Life was dull in my hometown / Lights were out when the sun went down / And I thought that city life was more my style / But nights get lonely away from home / And it’s easy to go wrong / The men ain’t kind like my Blue Ridge Mountain boy

A heartbreaking song for anyone who has ever left the comfort of a hometown (and the familiar people in it) for a bigger, better, colder place.


2. Touch Your Woman (1972)

And when the busy day is done / You lay by my side / You know exactly what it takes to keep me satisfied / You know exactly what I need and I always go to sleep in peace / Thanking God that you belong to me

A catchy 1970’s country love song about the power of female orgasms? Yes, please.


3. 9 To 5 (1980)

They let you dream just to watch 'em shatter / You're just a step on the boss-man's ladder / But you got dreams he'll never take away

Honestly, if this isn’t on your Monday morning and Friday evening playlists (even in 2018), I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.


4. Joshua (1971)

He said what you doing snooping 'round my place / And I saw a smile come across his face / So I smiled back and I told him who I was

“Joshua” was Parton’s first No. 1 hit on the US Country charts and the song for which she received her first Grammy nomination. It’s the catchiest love song about a town outcast I’ve ever heard.


5. My Tennessee Mountain Home (1973)

Honeysuckle vine clings to the fence along the lane / Their fragrance makes the summer wind so sweet / And on a distant hilltop, an eagle spreads its wings / An’ a songbird on a fence post sings a melody

This catchy bluegrass song (which appears on the album of the same name), paints a quaint picture of Parton’s childhood home in Sevier County, Tennessee.


6. Wildflowers (1987) - with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt

Just a wild rambling rose seeking mysteries untold / No regret for the path that I chose / When a flower grows wild / It can always survive / Wildflowers don't care where they grow

This is a lovely, folksy song from the Trio album with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. The lyrics are a beautiful and poetic metaphor for the desire to roam, but the vocals are on another level.

Meagan Lilly