OA: Samantha Stiles Column December 05, 2008

A little bit of Dolly Parton

Give me a topic, and somehow I can try to relate it back to Dolly Parton.

Instead of the game being six degrees of Kevin Bacon, it should be six degrees of Dolly
Parton, because I think there’s a little of Dolly in everyone and everything.

In fact, Dolly’s influence exists here in Grand Junction, both in the memories of people who saw her many Country Jams ago (I can think of at least one local blogger who remembers) and in her Imagination Library reading program that recently came to the area. For more information go to http://www.gjimaginationlibrary.org.

Did you know Dolly’s been an avid reader her entire life?

I’m a Dolly fan and not embarrassed by it one bit. If you know anything about her, you know that she’s a savvy business lady, and a person who cares deeply about her community. I can relate to that, I aspire to be that.

Years ago, I saw a TV special about Dolly’s life and I’ve been intrigued by her ever since.

I breezed through her autobiography, “Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business.” I don’t recommend reading the whole book, it lags in parts, but it’s still interesting to read about her rise to stardom, even though she dislikes the word “star.”

But what really got me was a piece National Public Radio did in October about Dolly’s song “Jolene.” The piece was called “Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ Still Haunts Singers” by Tom Vitale.

Vitale should have added “and writers” to the title of his story.

I’ve read the story many times over, and from what I gather, there’s just something about that song. It’s not so much how Dolly sings it, but how anyone can sing it and mean it.

“Jolene” has been covered by more than 30 singers and in several languages, the NPR story points out.

It’s that feeling of inadequacy in the song that perhaps people relate to. “Please don’t take my man ... I cannot compete with you, Jolene.”

The character Jolene was both real and made up at the same time, a fact I didn’t know until I read the NPR story.

Dolly met Jolene, an 8-year-old, one night in the late 1960s while the singer was signing autographs, she told NPR. Jolene had red hair and green eyes.

But, the real idea for the song came from a bank teller who had a crush on Dolly’s husband, Carl. It’s funny how little is said about Carl. From what I read in Dolly’s autobiography, Carl is the yin to her yang. Dolly’s a flashy, spunky character and her husband is a balanced, quiet individual.

“She had everything I didn’t, like legs — you know, she was about 6 feet tall,” Dolly told NPR about that bank teller. “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.”

“Just Because I’m a Woman,” a compilation CD of various female singers doing covers of Dolly’s songs, is a great CD. I think I’ve recommended it to readers before. You can check it out at the library.

The standout song is Mindy Smith’s version of “Jolene,” a cover that Dolly officially endorsed as her favorite cover of the song.

Once you listen to it, you’ll know why.

There’s just something about “Jolene.”


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