In praise of Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton, like other country singers, is self-deprecating enough to allow herself to be turned into a caricature. But Dolly is a great artist. She is a master of those “ancient tones” that come out of mountain music, and she can also bring those same qualities into her contemporary song-writing. Last night, she was the rather unlikely singing coach and song provider for “American Idol,” which, one would think, would prove a tough challenge for these young, pop, rock-tinged singers.

But the test of the songwriter part of a singer-songwriter is that the songs also work when other people perform them. Bob Dylan, for example, has a totally unique voice and totally unique songs. And yet, when other people perform them–from the Byrds to Garth Brooks– they still work!

And Dolly Parton is the same way. The “Idols” did quite well with her songs, I thought, in some cases rendering them in non-country styles but the strength of the songs still came through. (I’m thinking particularly of David Cook’s alterna-arrangement of “Sparrow.” For a non-”Idol” example, listen to what Whitney Houston does with “I Will Always Love You.”)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Good take on last night’s show, Dr. Veith! I, too, was struck by David Cook’s rendition of Sparrow. He seems to be emerging as an artist who can take a song, create (or find) a version to his liking, and sing it as his own. The rest don’t do it as well as he can.

    I grew up in the Dolly Parton-as-pop-singer years (70′s) and probably laughed at her as a teenager, but I never hated her music. Her voice always made me stop and listen. Fast-forward to my own mid-forties; I recently purchased a track from iTunes – Dolly Parton singing Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven (from her acoustic collection). The first half of the song is very good, though the second half kind of loses the magic. Sparrow is also on that collection. I bought it this morning.

    I am very happy with this season’s cast of American Idol!

  • http://www.dollyon-line.com/ Dolly Parton Lover

    Omg, Dolly Parton was so wonderful on Idol tonight! You truly forget how great Dolly is until you see her and then you fall in love all over again. What an amazing lady!

  • Pingback: American Idol Dolly Parton Songs Leaked | QuickNews

  • Pinon Coffee

    I just discovered Dolly Parton within the last year or two, and I really enjoy her music. I’m glad American Idol had the sense to hire her. :-)

  • Booklover

    I don’t watch American Idol so I missed Dolly there.

    I’m ready for the onslaught of attack I’m going to get for this but~~

    I believe that Dolly wouldn’t be 1/8 as popular as she is if it weren’t for those enormous fake things.

    There. I said it. I hope that men don’t have to get enormous fake things for them to be listened to in the country music world. That would be weird.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Well, I’m not a huge Dolly fan, but I can name other things that get her noticed: her unusual voice, her large white hair, her great big smile, her outstanding beauty (pre surgical enhancements), her very small figure, her way of dressing, her Christian faith…I think your comments about her chest are unfair.

  • Booklover

    Theresa,

    It’s unfair that you assumed that I was talking about her chest.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    OK….so you were referring to her large, fake…? (P.S. I am also assuming that you are chuckling right about now, too.)

    Seriously though, go to iTunes (or a record store or the library) and listen to some of her acoustic songs. Her voice is truly something special. And I truly am not a fan. I own ONE Dolly Parton song on my iTunes.

  • Pingback: Dolly Parton » In praise of Dolly Parton


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X