Dolly Parton Draws Creative Inspiration from Graveyards

by Jennifer Shea

For such a cheerful person, Dolly Parton spends a surprising amount of time in graveyards.

The country superstar revealed in her latest book, Dolly Parton, Storyteller, that she has often drawn inspiration from the tranquil cemeteries she visits. 

Dolly Parton Still Hanging Out in Graveyards

“In fact, my niece and I had a picnic in a graveyard three days ago,” Parton said in a mid-September interview. “I just love walking through them and looking at [the headstones]. I just love to imagine what people’s lives were like. They’re so well kept, and they’re peaceful.”

Parton shared in her book “Songteller: My Life in Lyrics” that certain songs of hers grew out of her time spent in graveyards. For example, the 1971 song “Out of the Silence (Came a Song)” is the result of Parton’s sitting up on Graveyard Hill, a cemetery near her Tennessee house.

“I was thinking about all those people in their graves, wondering about their lives, of all the things that might have happened to them,” she writes in her book.

Parton also got the idea for “Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark” from a child’s grave that she found in a cemetery. It featured an eternal flame, hence the line, “But on Jeannie’s grave, we placed an eternal flame/That glows and never loses its spark.”

Parton and Cemeteries Through the Years

Furthermore, for a 1977 Rolling Stone interview, Parton suggested to a reporter that they do the interview in a graveyard.

“What about this graveyard?” she asked then.

“You serious?” the reporter replied in disbelief.

“Yeah, I love cemeteries, they’re so quiet,” Parton insisted. “You know, people are dyin’ to get into ’em. Really, I write in cemeteries a lot; nobody bothers you there.”

And in a 1984 interview with “Good Morning America,” Parton stressed that her time in cemeteries is “not a morbid thing.” 

“I love to go sit under trees and things. And I walk around and I read the stories and I get a lot of ideas of lives,” she said. “I just kind of sit there, and ideas come… and I don’t think that’s weird, do you? I don’t hang out there at night.” 

If Parton chooses to spend her days in graveyards, it certainly hasn’t hurt her career. The prolific singer and songwriter finished out 2020 with a new Christmas album, a holiday special and a Netflix movie. All this along with myriad appearances on late night and daytime talk shows. And heading into 2021, the busy musician shows no signs of letting up.

H/T: The Boot