Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs
There are many legends in the music business, with a select few considered icons, and a smaller elite group that are known the world over by just their first name. Taste of Country honors one of those rare treasures with a list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton songs. In addition to becoming one of the genre's great songwriters, Parton went on to conquer the pop charts, Hollywood's movie scene, the cover of Rolling Stone, a successful theme park and restaurants, a movie production company, becoming a favorite guest on many television shows and writing a Tony-nominated Broadway musical. On top of her amazing success in any and every endeavor, Parton always takes the time to give back, open minds and spread love through her down-home country personality. Today, we salute some of her best work with classics like 'Jolene' and 'Coat of Many Colors,' to movie-based hits like '9 to 5' and 'Tennessee Homesick Blues.' These are just a few of the tunes making up our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs.
Released as the first album on her own label, Dolly Records, ‘Backwoods Barbie’ was a reminder that the Hall of Fame country diva was still a powerful force in the modern music world. The album’s first single ‘Better Get To Livin’’ was featured on 'Dancing With the Stars,' the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and was a highlight of her world tour in 2008. However, the album’s title track became a hit in Dolly Parton’s ‘9 To 5: the Musical' on Broadway, as performed by her character Doralee Rhodes. Representing her more modern work, ‘Backwoods Barbie’ is a great way to start our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton songs.
In the mid-80’s, Dolly Parton was everywhere! In 1986 she put her name on a Silver Dollar City amusement chain in her hometown of Sevier County, Tenn. Dollywood, as it was appropriately named, quickly became a hit and continues to draw millions of tourists every year. In 1987, Parton launched her own short-lived variety show on ABC and won a Grammy for her collaboration with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. In 1989, she returned to her country roots with a hit produced by Ricky Skaggs in ‘Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That.’
The movie ‘Rhinestone’ was inspired by the man who wrote the Glen Campbell hit ‘Rhinestone Cowboy.’ Larry Weiss had tried to get the song turned into a movie for years, and eventually, the idea came to fruition at 20th Century Fox. However, the title was shortened to just ‘Rhinestone,’ and Dolly Parton was assigned the task of writing the music and co-staring with Sylvester Stallone. Although the movie was not a box office smash, the title track topped the country music charts. ‘Tennessee Homesick Blues’ was Dolly’s tribute to her life in the Smoky Mountains and a great representation of her work on our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton songs.
Dolly Parton was so hot in 1978 that both country and pop stations were playing her songs. RCA released ‘It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right’ to country radio with the flip side ‘Two Doors Down’ gaining airplay on pop radio. ‘It’s All Wrong’ peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Singles chart, while the better-known flip side enjoyed success on the Billboard Top 40 pop charts. It’s legend that Dolly wrote this song while on a diet. As her band and crew were partying and eating at a restaurant after a show, she decided to stay in her hotel room, two doors down, so not to be tempted to eat.
After departing the Porter Wagoner partnership in 1974, many wondered if Dolly Parton would make it in country music as a solo act. It wouldn’t take long for Dolly to spread her wings and conquer both the country and pop music charts. ‘Here You Come Again’ was her first million-seller, first major crossover hit and a Grammy winner for Best Female Performance. Unlike many of her other hits, this tune was not written by Dolly, it was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and originally recorded by B.J. Thomas. Dolly’s version helped earn her a spot on ‘The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,' where she would prove to become a staple of television talk shows. In addition, the following year the CMA named her the Entertainer of the Year.
Dolly Parton teamed with Kenny Rogers in 1983 for one of the biggest collaborations in the music world. At the time, both artists had already had a few big hits in multiple genres, and now the chemistry of the two hit makers would take them to superstar status. In addition to a successful television special and a hot-selling holiday project, Kenny and Dolly became the iconic faces of country music in the ‘80s. Their first single together was the Bee Gees-penned classic, ‘Islands in the Stream.’ Then came another No. 1 duet in 1985 called ‘Real Love.’ A Kenny and Dolly duet was sure to make our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton songs.
By 1973, Dolly Parton had already had six years of commercial success in country music with hits like ‘Dumb Blonde’ and ‘Joshua.’ Plus, she had CMA-winning duets with Porter Wagoner on ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’ and ‘Just Someone I Used to Know.’ As she prepared to make the decision to go solo, ‘Jolene’ hit the top of the charts. Although written about a woman who flirted with her husband, Parton insists that the name Jolene came from a beautiful young girl who asked for her autograph at a concert. ‘Jolene’ is not only a given on any southern drag queen's set list, it’s also a must on our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton songs.
1971’s ‘Coat of Many Colors’ tells the real story of how Parton's mother stitched together a coat for her daughter out of rags given to the family. As she sewed, she told her child the biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Dolly kept the original coat, which is now on display in her Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood. She composed the song in 1969 while traveling with Porter Wagoner. Parton admits that she could find no paper as the song came to her, so she wrote it on the back of a dry-cleaning receipt from one of Wagoner's suits. That receipt is also on display at her popular Dollywood museum. Dolly has often stated that of the 3,000 plus songs she's written, this is her favorite.
Dolly Parton’s co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin actually selected the country singer to play the part of Doralee in the movie ‘9 to 5.’ Fonda met Parton on a flight and thought that her country girl charm was just the perfect fit for the third lead character in the film. While filming her scenes, Dolly became bored in her downtime and decided to write songs while she waited. One of those compositions was used as the theme for the movie, and it landing at No. 1 on both the country and pop charts. The song would come back to life in 2008 for ‘9 to 5: the Musical’ with a Tony-nominated score penned entirely by Parton.
‘I Will Always Love You’ is the obvious choice for No. 1 for many reasons, including the fact that it has been a hit on four different occasions! Dolly Parton first hit the top with the song in 1974, composing it as a goodbye to her former duet partner, Porter Wagoner. Again going to No. 1, Dolly re-recorded the song for a love scene with Burt Reynolds in the 1982 movie soundtrack for ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.’ In 1992, the late Whitney Houston did a version of the song for ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack, taking it to No. 1 on the pop charts. Once again, proving the song's timeless message, Dolly again recorded the master piece as a duet with Vince Gill that placed them at No. 15 and earned a CMA award for Vocal Event of the Year in 1995.