If there ever was a more iconic, recognizable country song than “Jolene,” I have yet to hear it.
On this date in 1973, Dolly Parton released her signature track (and one of her first hit singles), “Jolene”, as the first single and title track of her 13th studio album.
She wrote it on the same day in 1972 that she wrote her other massive hit, “I Will Always Love You”, if you can believe it. Talk about a good writing day…
And, as the famous story goes, Dolly was inspired to write the song after a bank teller in her hometown got a little too flirty with her husband, Carl Dean, not long after they got married (and she got the name “Jolene” from a little girl who asked Dolly to sign an autograph early in her career):
“She got this terrible crush on my husband. 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.”
And, Dolly says part of what makes the song so great is how relatable it is.
If we’re being really honest, I think a lot of us understand the feeling of being threatened at some point by another girl who we feel like might have some qualities we lack:
“She had everything I didn’t, like legs — you know, she was about 6 feet tall. And had all that stuff that some little short, sawed-off honky like me don’t have.
So no matter how beautiful a woman might be, you’re always threatened by certain… You’re always threatened by other women, period.”
I could go on about how important this song was for her career, or how it has become a classic country tune for elements like it’s catchy hook and perfect production. But, I think that’s pretty apparent when you consider how timeless it’s become across generations and the cultural impact it has made over the years.
Dolly Parton is a true original and one-of-a-kind, and this song is as perfect an example of that as anything.
And ladies, while we’re at it, a bit of advice from the queen herself:
When her beauty is beyond compare with flaming locks of auburn hair 🚩🚩🚩
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) October 13, 2021
Here’s my favorite performance of her singing “Jolene” on The Porter Wagoner Show back in 1974: