Remembering Dolly Parton’s Searing 'Jolene' Live in 1988

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Remembering Dolly Parton’s Searing 'Jolene' Live in 1988

dolly parton
Dolly Parton. Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images. 

Dolly Parton first released Jolene in October 1973, turning the universal themes of jealousy and scorned love into an undeniable anthem of morality. Instead of being filled with venom and spite, the lyrics address the subject with humility and respect, pleading to be understood rather than simply appeased. 

According to Parton, the heartrending story was born from truth. As she shared with NPR in 2008, the song was inspired by a flirtatious bank teller who had her sights set on Dolly’s husband (to whom she is still married today), Carl Dean. "She got this terrible crush on my husband," Parton said. "And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us, when I was saying, 'Hell, you're spending a lot of time at the bank. I don't believe we've got that kind of money.' So it's really an innocent song all around, but sounds like a dreadful one."

That said, if this searing 1988 live performance of the track is anything to go by (with Dolly’s hair at its height of, well …height) – if Jolene can make Dolly Parton feel inferior, none of us are safe! Enjoy the fierce performance below.

Dolly Parton | 'Jolene' [1988]

As a testament to the song’s iconic status, the number of Jolene covers that have been released over the years is truly overwhelming. As one might expect, multiple country musicians have tackled the classic, including Olivia Newton-John, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire and Alison Krauss, just to name a few! But it’s not just the country stars who have found a connection in the universal theme. Pop stars like Miley Cyrus (Dolly’s own Goddaughter) and Ellie Goulding have both given it a crack as well as rock legends like Patti Smith and the White Stripes. Fair to say, you’d be hard-pressed to find any musician on the planet that doesn’t rate this song!

Parton has released an unbelievable 60 albums over her six-decade career and penned dozens of classic hits, from her own 9-5 to the Whitney Houston made famous, I Will Always Love You.

Dolly Parton | “I Will Always Love You” [1974]

But, Jolene sits apart in her catalogue, rising to become not just one of Dolly’s most iconic songs, but one of the most iconic songs in the history of popular music. Dolly's eternally humble nature, untainted by fame, despite rising to become one of the world's biggest stars, is immortalised in the lyrics of this song. 


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