We’re celebrating country icon, Dolly Parton on her 77th birthday with a look at some well-known songs by Kenny Rogers, Whitney Houston, and more, all written by Dolly.
In fact, across her storied seven-decade career, Dolly estimates that she has written close to 3,000 songs and had over 450 of them recorded, by herself and many others. With one of the most prolific careers in music, the Queen of Country has had plenty of hits in her own name, but did you know she also penned these hits by her fellow legends?
1. Kenny Rogers | ‘The Stranger’
This heart-wrenching tale of loss and deception is a gripping story song that many would imagine, was pulled straight from the past of Kenny Rogers himself. But, in a truth stranger than fiction, The Stranger, from Rogers’ 1984 album, What About Me? was in fact plucked from the imagination of his longtime collaborator, Dolly Parton.
One month later, Parton and Rogers would unveil their revered collaborative holiday album, Once Upon a Christmas.
2. Merle Haggard | ‘Kentucky Gambler’
When it comes to delivering a heart wrenching tale, Merle Haggard is arguably the king. A year before releasing his own self-penned, tormented number one Always Wanting You for Dolly herself, Haggard found himself at the top of the charts with a song written by Dolly, Kentucky Gambler which featured Parton singing harmony. Another story song, steeped in moral metaphors, Haggard's version of Kentucky Gambler released with The Stranglers, reached number one in the US on Jan. 18, 1975.
3. Tina Turner | ‘There'll Always Be Music’
Two years after Tina Turner released her iconic hit Proud Mary, she parted ways with then-husband Ike Turner and took a foray into country music with a 10-track debut solo studio album Tina Turns the Country On! that included contributions from a high-profile list of songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, James Taylor and, You guessed it, Dolly Parton.
The Parton-penned piano ballad, There'll Always Be Music highlighted Turner’s soulful solo prowess, with the album earning Turner a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance.
4. Hank Williams Jr. | ‘I’m In No Condition’
Another very familiar voice telling a tortured tale of love and loss that sounds straight from his own heart, however, this Hank Williams Jr. single is yet another showcase of the incredible imagination of Dolly Parton.
5. Emmylou Harris | ‘To Daddy’
This Parton-penned hit was recorded by both Dolly and fellow country icon, Emmylou Harris, who scored herself a number three hit on the Billboard Country chart in 1978 with the song detailing an unhappy marriage, from the perspective of a teenager observing her parents' lives unfold.
6. Whitney Houston | ‘I Will Always Love You’
The origins of this heartrending heartache smash are, in true Dolly form, funnier than you might imagine. As the story goes, Dolly wrote I Will Always Love You in the early 70s as a sort of protest song. After trying to leave The Porter Wagoner Show numerous times, only to have her requests ignored by the show's host, Wagoner, Parton decided to put her thoughts into a song.
"I wrote the song, took it back in the next day, and I said, 'Porter, sit down. I've got something I have to sing to you,'" Parton recalled in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. "So, I sang it, and he was sitting at his desk, and he was crying. He said, 'That's the best thing you ever wrote. Okay, you can go, but only if I can produce that record.'"
Parton's own recording landed her a number one single in 1974, but not even that could prepare her for the direction would take when Whitney Houston’s show-stopping rendition in the 1992 film, The Bodyguard became a global smash, spending 14 consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart!
To date, it is the best-selling physical single by a woman, with over 20 million copies sold, and earning Houston's Record Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 1994 Grammy Awards.
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