“I understand that your mom used to teach you songs that tell stories, like old fashioned songs. Do you remember any of the songs your mom used to sing with you?” Colbert asked the country icon.
“I remember all of them!” Parton replied. “Momma was a good singer too. And she would just sing a cappella all the time. So many of those songs were sad, and as I say, some of them were just plum pitiful.”
Parton goes on to say she remembers her mother singing “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.” She says it’s about a girl who was going to get married, but the groom left her at the altar. The famous singer abruptly begins to sing a portion of the song that her mother passed down to her.
As Parton sings the song originally written by Michael Daves and Chris Thile in 1926, Colbert is in awe. He looks off-screen and says to someone, “I have goosebumps.”
Colbert and Parton Share a Touching Moment on “The Late Show”
Cameras capture the comedian getting emotional as he tears up a bit. Colbert removes his glasses to wipe away the tears with a tissue. The impromptu performance lasted less than a minute, but that’s all it took to pull at Colbert’s heartstrings.
“I better hush before you cry yourself to death and we can’t finish the show,” joked Parton.
Colbert laughed it off, but admitted that her tune struck a chord with him.
“Like a lot of Americans, I’m under a lot of stress right now, Dolly. And, uh, you got under my tripwire right there. I’ll tell you right there…that was pretty beautiful,” Colbert said to the singer. “Isn’t it funny that sometimes there’s nothing happier than a cry?”
“Yeah, I think it cleanses your soul,” Parton replied. “I think water’s good to wash it out. That’s what tears are for, I think.”
You can watch the tender moment between the host and country legend that starts around the 5-minute mark of the video below.