Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ Turns 40: Everything to Know About the Iconic Song

by Jon D. B.
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The iconic Dolly Parton anthem, ‘9 to 5’ turns 40 today, and there’s far more to the timeless hit and film than most fans know.

For country fans, and the entire human race, there’s no one more iconic than Dolly Parton. Perhaps her most celebrated song is 9 to 5. This single song & film combo changed the face of pop culture and country music simultaneously.

Originally written by Parton herself, 9 to 5 was crafted for the film of the same name in 1980. In addition to leading the promotion of her movie, this “everyday masterpiece” was also the heart of her 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs album of that same year.

While the song has taken on a life of its own, there’s far more to this timeless classic. For this and many other reasons, we here at Outsider.com are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the song’s release with incredible facts her fans will be thrilled to know.

Dolly Parton and ‘9 to 5’ Take the World by Storm

Upon its release, 9 to 5 won Parton an Academy Award nomination, alongside four Grammy nominations. For the song, the icon won Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female. The latter award, however, fits perfectly into Parton’s inspiration for the song and film.

The song is a part of the American Film Institutes “100 Years, 100 Songs” list at #78. 9 to 5 became the official anthem for blue-collar workers in America, as well. Women, in particular, embraced the song, and continue to this day.

According to SongFacts.com, “in a 2009 interview with 60 Minutes, Parton talked about the unlikely inspiration for this song, her fingernails. She had very long, acrylic nails. She discovered that when she rubbed them together she could create a rhythm that sounded like a typewriter. Since the movie was about secretaries, she was able to use that sound to compose the song on the set. She even played her fingernails as part of the percussion sound when she recorded the track.”

9 to 5 was Parton’s Acting Debut

The film was also Parton’s acting debut. Alongside her were Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman. Each of the female leads dealt with the trials of being a woman in an American office. And the hours were, of course, 9 to 5.

DECEMBER 19: (L-R) Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton act in a scene from the movie “9 to 5” which was released on December 19, 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“Both the film and the song ‘9 to 5’ exposed gender inequity in the workplace,” SongFacts continues. “It was done for laughs, which was the only way it could reach a mass audience, while still made a strong statement, with three female leads taking on their stereotypically disparaging boss.”

“The song has a jaunty tone that fits the movie, but the lyrics ring true for many women:

They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it

9 to 5

Her Country Music Struggle Inspired the Film & Song

As a result of her own career, Parton was beyond qualified to write such lyrics. Having struggled herself in a male-dominated industry, Parton rose to the top of her own merits, talent, and ambition.

  • “9 to 5” didn’t start any kind of movement, but did push the issue forward. When the #metoo uprising took shape, it became a touchstone to measure progress. Women were still earning considerably less than men and dealing with an often criminal level of disrespect. In 2018, punk rock forebears Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna, and Allison Wolfe teamed up to re-create scenes from the movie for the video to “77,” a song that refers to women earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
  • This was a huge crossover hit for Parton, who expanded her audience to the world of mainstream pop. Years later, many country music artists, especially female singers like Faith Hill and Shania Twain, followed Parton’s lead and made headway on the pop charts.
  • At different points in the song, you can hear the sounds of some tapping followed by a bell. This was the sound of a typewriter, which was the tool of the trade for secretaries in 1980. The bell told the typist that she was nearing the end of the page and needed to return the carriage to the left and start a new line. Typewriters were eventually replaced with word processors and computers, making these sounds obsolete.

Parton’s Enduring Legacy Most Apparent Through 9 to 5

  • This song got the Andy Samberg treatment in at 2010 episode of Saturday Night Live. Where in a digital short, they turned the song into “Stumblin”. The bit featured Samberg and Paul Rudd stumbling all over Manhattan to a reworked version of this song. Paul McCartney, who was the musical guest on the show, appears in the short doing a very random, tiny harmonica solo.
  • The film 9 to 5 was turned into TV series that ran five seasons from 1982-1988. The song was used as the theme, initially with Phoebe Snow singing it, then replaced with Parton’s version later on. The cast changed a lot throughout the run, with Sally Struthers and Valerie Curtin among the participants.
  • In 2009, the franchise was revived with a Broadway musical that opened and closed with ensemble renditions of the song. This production starred Allison Janney and Megan Hilty.
  • Alison Krauss recorded this in 2003 for the tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton. That same year, Krauss and Parton sang it together for Lifetime’s fourth annual Women Rock concert.
  • When Parton received the MusiCares Person Of The Year award at the 2019 Grammys, she performed this song to close out her set. She was joined on stage by Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves, Katy Perry, Linda Perry (no relation) Miley Cyrus, and Maren Morris.

In short: no one does it better than Dolly Parton. Long live Dolly!

[H/T SongFacts.com]

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