Despite the increasingly snarky vibe of the formerly essential Entertainment Weekly, it still can suggest a flicker of its former cultural primacy when it drops the disaffected tone and uses its grown-up voice (don’t they know that millenials don’t care read magazines anyway?) Case in point: I love the periodic feature “The Soundtrack of My Life,” wherein they query musicians about their influences (Stargayzing has a similar feature, Songwriters Forum: 20 Questions With…). In May 2014, pop culture icon and songwriting legend Dolly Parton shared some of her personal musical thoughts with the magazine’s Mandi Bierly to publicize the release of her 42nd studio album, Blue Smoke. Here are some excerpts from that piece.
THE FIRST SONG I WAS OBSESSED WITH
The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I loved all kinds of songs, and I grew up singin’ all sorts of songs, but the first time I ever remember totally being jarred feelin’ all kinds of emotions was when that song came out. I couldn’t get enough of it. This girlfriend of ours had an old trap car, so we used to ride around—she was a little older than us. I just remember us hearing that on the radio any time we had a chance—because they played it night and day when the Beatles first came on the scene.
THE SONG THAT REMINDS ME OF MY FIRST KISS
[Laughs] That would probably be “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” too, ’cause that was when I was beginnin’ to date a little bit.
THE FIRST ALBUM I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY
First of all, I had no money. But after I moved to Nashville, Otis Redding was a favorite artist and I remember buying his album. My husband and I used to listen to his music when we were datin’. His voice always moved me: “These Arms of Mine” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”
“These Arms of Mine,” from 1962:
“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” from 1965:
THE FIRST SONG I PERFORMED IN PUBLIC
There were two that were my specialty: “Tall Men,” that Rose Maddox used to do, and then a George Jones song that came out in 1956. I was 10 years old, and I was singing, “You Gotta Be My Baby.” Every time I would sing it in front of an audience, I would get an encore and have to sing it again.
Rose Maddox’s “Tall Men”:
George Jones’ “You Gotta Be My Baby”:
THE SONG THAT MAKES ME CRY
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” always makes me cry. George Jones has moved me as much if not more than any other singer. When my mom passed away, it was several months before I could really sing “Coat of Many Colors” without cryin’.
George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today”:
Emmylou Harris’ cover version of “Coat of Many Colors”:
THE MUSIC I LIKE TO PLAY BEFORE I GO OUT ON STAGE
Usually when I get ready for a show, I’m more apt to pray or do my little affirmations, just asking God to let me shine and radiate with his light and to let me be a blessin’.
THE SONG I WISH I’D WRITTEN
“Sometimes When We Touch,” by Dan Hill and Barry Mann, who wrote my hit “Here You Come Again” with Cynthia Weil. That one moves me a great deal. [A number three pop hit from 1978.]
THE COVER SONG THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU
Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands on Me” [on Blue Smoke]. I always loved the song, but the first time I heart it—because I grew up in a Pentecostal church, where people believed in healing hands and laying your hands on someone—I just thought, “Wow, that would make a fantastic gospel song.” Jon wrote a real nice note that he loved the way it turned out.
THE SONG I’D STILL LIKE TO COVER
I always wanted to do “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” so I might tackle that one on my next album. [Laughs] I always thought that would make a great bluegrassy cover.
THE ARTIST PEOPLE MIGHT NOT EXPECT ME TO LOVE
I was a fool over Cat Stevens as a writer, and for his style and his singin’. I still have every album that he ever did, and I still listen to them now and then.
Dolly’s cover of Cat Steven’s “Peace Train” was a number one dance hit in 1996:
THE MUSIC I WANT PLAYED AT MY FUNERAL
I’m sure they’ll be playing “I Will Always Love You” when I die, just like they did with Whitney Houston. When they picked her coffin up and started in on that song, I started to cry, and i thought, “Oh my Lord.” That’s when it hit me that she was really gone. But there’s a song called “If We Never Meet Again.” It’s an old country-gospel church song that talks about if we never meet again this side of heaven, I will meet you on that beautiful shore. “Where the charming roses bloom forever and where separations come no more.” That was my daddy’s favorite. We did sing it at his funeral, and I would like it to be sung at mine.
[Here is Dolly and Vince Gill’s duet version of “I Will Always Love You” from her 1995 album Something Special—her third recording of her most successful composition. The song went to #15 on the country chart and won a CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year]:
Merle Haggard and the Carter Family’s version of Albert E. Brumley’s “If We Never Meet Again.”:
More Dolly Parton in Stargayzing:
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