On This Day: Dolly Parton Scores Second #1 Single ‘Jolene’ in 1974

by Madison Miller

One of Dolly Parton’s most famous songs is her fiery 1974 classic, “Jolene.” The song was her second No. 1 single. It was also the name of her 13th studio album and started Parton’s series of No. 1 consecutive hits.

Parton continues to be an icon on the pop and country charts. “Jolene” has followed right along with that tradition.

It is one of Parton’s most popular songs that other artists have covered.

Background on ‘Jolene’

The song tells the story of a woman creating chaos in the singer’s relationship. A woman named “Jolene” is trying to take her man, just because she can.

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / I’m begging of you, please don’t take my man / Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / Please don’t take him just because you can / Your beauty is beyond compare / With flaming locks of auburn hair / With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green.”

While Parton wrote many of her songs about her life, this one goes a little further than that. The song is not about a personal experience in her own relationship, necessarily. Instead, it’s a song about a name mixed with a story.

Parton told NPR that there was a woman that had been giving her man extra attention. However, it didn’t actually cause any real harm to their relationship.

“She got this terrible crush on my husband. And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us — when I was saying, ‘Hell, you’re spending a lot of time at the bank. I don’t believe we’ve got that kind of money.’ So it’s really an innocent song all around but sounds like a dreadful one,” Parton said.

The song would later come together when a young fan at one of Parton’s concerts said her name was Jolene. The beautiful name mixed with her story seemed to spark a hit in Parton.

Dolly Parton Covers

Her godchild, Miley Cyrus, covered the song in what she called “The Backyard Sessions.” The song had a lot of the original twang of Parton’s, however, it had that intense pop-sounding, rock voice of Cyrus as well.

In addition to Miley Cyrus, The White Stripes, Olivia Newton-John, Sherrié Austin, Margo Price, Pentatonix and Ellie Goulding are just a few artists to take on the 1974 classic.

The White Stripes released their cover on the B-side to their single, “Hello Operator.” The song had also become an expected number during their live performances in the early 2000s. It has the typical soft, rocker-style so infamous of The White Stripes. Jack White said he would sing the song from the perspective of having a significant other that strays from him.

According to an interview with The Guardian, they may have the best cover of the song to date. That’s according to the greatest source, Dolly Parton herself.

“Well, I love him to death. [The White Stripes] did one of the greatest versions ever of ‘Jolene,'” Parton said.

In the same interview, Dolly Parton discussed that the two had talked about doing a collaboration down the road. Nothing has happened yet, however. White has worked with a number of legendary women in the past, like Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson.

She saw a girl with green eyes, auburn hair and vowed that she would write a song with that name someday.

Parton did in fact. She even recorded a strings-only version for her soundtrack for the film “Dumplin.'”